Ana Gomes on RTP recently, discussing ongoing peace negotiations in Russia and possible 'tactics' employed by Russian regime

Anti-corruption campaigners call for “Russian sanctions task force”

Portugal encouraged to show ‘zeal and diligence’

A group of citizens in Portugal, including academics, anti-corruption activists and two former presidential candidates, have called on the government (officially inaugurated later this afternoon) to “urgently” create a specialised task force to implement sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs and entities.

In a letter sent to the prime minister yesterday, the 12 signatories said they “are concerned about the lack of effectiveness of the application of sanctions and the residual value of those identified and frozen so far“. 

They want a task force to “operate while the sanctions decreed by the Council of the EU [European Union] are in force.”

This task force, according to the letter, could be led by the office of Portugal’s attorney general, with representatives of the Asset Recovery Office and the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Judicial Police, the Tax and Customs Authority, the Bank of Portugal and “other authorities relevant to the application in Portugal of the sanctions determined by the Council of the European Union.”

The text goes on : “Provide this task force with the autonomy and means necessary to carry out its mission swiftly and effectively, ascertaining all existing information (financial, fiscal, police and other) concerning suspicions of a link between assets established in Portugal and the individuals and legal persons on the sanctions lists, including companies, entities, bank accounts, real estate, investment funds or other financial products.

The letter also calls for the new entity to be given “a broad mandate to access relevant national databases, including the Commercial, Property and Vehicle Registers, the Central Register of beneficial owners, the registers of companies based or operating in the Madeira Free Trade Zone, as well as aircraft and vessels registered in Portugal (including in the International Shipping Register of Madeira).”

The request is designed to facilitate “fast and efficient access to the necessary information for the mapping of assets to be frozen and for sharing data with European and international bodies.

“Charge this task force with ensuring the exchange of information with existing international cooperation mechanisms, including the European Commission’s ‘Freeze and Seize’ task force, the ‘Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs’ task force, EUROJUST, EUROPOL, EUROFISC, OLAF and Interpol, not only to facilitate the mapping of assets that can be presented in Portugal, but also to increase the effectiveness of ongoing efforts in the other states involved,” the signatories write.

The group also requests that regular reports of the activities carried out to fulfill the task force mission be published and presented and discussed in parliament. 

This, the text argues, would ensure the “accountability and scrutiny necessary to reassure the Portuguese” and the country’s European partners “of Portugal’s zeal and diligence in applying sanctions.

The signatories also stress that the task force should propose “to the Government or Parliament possible changes or improvements to legislation and regulation, procedures or public policies related to the application of sanctions, the freezing of assets and the recovery of assets.

We expect the Portuguese Government’s condemnation of the illegal war launched by the Russian Federation to translate into a clear and coordinated effort to apply sanctions,” it adds.

The text is signed by Ana Gomes, a former member of the European Parliament and one-time candidate for president of Portugal; Bárbara Rosa, a legal expert; João Paulo Batalha, an anti-corruption expert and vice-president of the Civic Front organisation; Luís Aguiar-Conraria, a professor at the School of Economics and Management at the University of Minho; Luís de Sousa, a professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon; Maria José Morgado, a retired deputy attorney general; Maria Teresa Serrenho, vice-president of the Civic Front; Nuno Barroso, the president of the Professional Association of Tax Inspectors and the Ibero-American Network of Tax Auditors; Óscar Afonso, professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto; Paulo de Morais, president of the Civic Front and former candidate for president of Portugal; Susana Coroado, the president of Transparency International Portugal; and Susana Peralta, professor at the Nova School of Business & Economics.

And it comes after the almost laughable announcement recently that the only bank account in Portugal linked to a Russian name on the sanctions list had been frozen … with the sum of €242 in it. 

Source material: Lusa