Anti-corruption Euro MPs on second day of offshore grilling

Relentless anti-corruption ‘bulldog’, Euro MP Ana Gomes, is in Lisbon today for the second round of VIP grilling in an attempt to get to the bottom of various offshore ‘mysteries’ – not least the disappearance of €10 billion from Portugal during the height of the last government’s austerity crackdown.

Speaking about yesterday’s opening sessions, the Socialist firebrand explained that key interviews requested by the PANA commission, of which she is vice-president, have been ‘vetoed’.

Paulo Ralha, for example, the outspoken leader of the syndicate of tax department workers – who Gomes considers knows the workings Portugal’s fiscal machine “from within” – “and Paulo Portas”, Gomes’ bête-noir who she claims “invented Paulo Núncio for the job of secretary of state for fiscal affairs”.

Interviews of both men were vetoed by CDS Euro MP Nuno Melo, but Gomes says the commission still hopes to be able to speak to Paulo Ralha in Brussels.

As readers will recall, Portas’ choice for secretary of state for fiscal affairs took responsibility for the evaporation of billions to offshores during the years of the PSD-CDS/PP government, blaming it all on “computer error”.

But Gomes insists the explanation is “unacceptable” bearing in mind that any computer system “depends on the use and manipulation of human beings in order to function”.

She contends that many of the billions that left Portugal were “apparently connected to the Espirito Santo Group (GES), at a time when Portuguese authorities, namely the Bank of Portugal and former (centre right coalition) government already knew that things in GES were not good”.

“Computer error and the non-publication of offshore statistics were in the interests of GES, a group in which there was criminal activity”, Gomes added, stressing that while institutions appear to have been turning a blind eye to GES’ transfers, ‘little people’ like hairdressers and car repairers were being “persecuted”.

Gomes has never been a politician to mince her words.

She has driven the owner of Douro Azul into a form of public meltdown (click here) and she told Lusa yesterday that, as far as she can work out, the removal of Jersey, the Isle of Man and Uruguay from the offshore blacklist was simply a tactic to take the heat off Paulo Núncio.

The tactic, she claims, was one proposed by Nuno Melo.

Thus today’s grillings of finance minister Mário Centeno, former finance minister Maria Luís Albuquerque and others will be focused on (trying to) navigate the icebergs of obfuscation.

As Gomes admits, there are still “many contradictions and problems” to clarify.

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