Angola is all over the media this week: whether it is the fact that the new regime under João Lourenço is closing nine embassies and 18 consulates in Lisbon, Faro and elsewhere, or that one in three Portuguese visas go to Angolans, or that an Angolan general is fuming about what he believes to have been abusive treatment from the authorities (click here).
Portugal’s ‘head of diplomacy’ Augusto Santos Silva has gone on record as saying “relations with Angola are unsubstitutable”.
In truth, all these sound bites are ‘connected’ to the ongoing bumpy ride of a rather embarrassing Public Ministry investigation.
Operation Fizz – which centres round alleged bribes made to a Portuguese magistrate, purportedly by Angola’s former vice president Manuel Vicente – opened in shambolic style in Lisbon this morning.
No sooner had people been filmed carrying sheaves of papers into court than reporters were explaining that everyone had left to go to lunch.
But the bottom line was that the ‘star arguido’ (official suspect) is not an arguido at all.
Manuel Vicente “hasn’t even been notified of the accusation, nor has he been made an arguido”, said his lawyer Rui Patrício.
Bearing in mind that this is a case of alleged corruption that newspapers have been talking about for months (naming Vicente as one of the principal arguidos), it just made the whole situation even more perplexing.
Why has Operation Fizz even been called “fizz”? What does it all mean?
Arguido Orlando Figueira – the magistrate Vicente is alleged to have “paid to shelve investigations” – has assured reporters that he is entirely innocent, thus the likelihood of any kind of slam-dunk judgement is minute.
As SIC television news has agreed, it is all “very complicated”, particularly as judges this morning have ruled that whatever lies ahead, Manuel Vicente will not be tried with the other three defendants: Orlando Figueira, lawyer Paulo Blanco and businessman Armindo Pires.
Thanks to his immunity – which his lawyer claims to be a matter of State, ‘transcending Vicente himself’ – Vicente’s part of the case is going to be judged separately.
Whether this means separately in Angola, or separately in Portugal is what no one seems able to work out.