Anti-corruption MEPs get green-light to investigate Portugal’s “missing billions”

Pushing for the chance to ask inconvenient questions, anti-corruption MEPs headed by redoubtable Socialist Ana Gomes have got the green-light they were waiting for.

They will be in Lisbon for two days next month, and have a massive list of names they mean to tackle.

From former prime minister José Sócrates and former CGD director Armando Vara – both mired in the ongoing Marquês inquiry – to José Maria Ricciardi (ex- BES and now ex-Haitong bank, too), finance ministers past and present, the governor of the Bank of Portugal, the Attorney General, secretary of state for Fiscal Affairs Rocha Andrade and Paulo Núncio – the centre-right politician who ‘fell on his sword’ over the disappearance of €10 billion to offshores during his watch, the PANA team will have a tortuous row to hoe.

According to ECO online, Gomes is still hoping for an audience with former deputy PM Paulo Portas, “but may not get it”.

Fellow team member Nuno Melo (CDS) is described as “not wanting Portas on the list”.

Gomes’ suspicions that Portas has much to explain over Portugal’s €800 million purchase of submarines and Pandur vehicles is legendary – but as a report in Wikipedia explains “since Portugal’s 10-year statute of limitations for white collar crimes expired in 2014, he (or anyone else) can no longer be prosecuted even if incriminating evidence were to emerge some day”.

PANA’s brief is being kept suitably vague. The probe is certainly focused on the €10 billion that ‘escaped tax’ during Núncio’s term in charge of Fiscal Affairs and which, up till now, has been blamed on an “internet blackout”.

Núncio meantime has been back in the news for having created 120 offshore companies in Madeira’s ‘zona franca’, which again is an area that Gomes has said the PANA team hope to probe (click here).

Focus of the interviews due to take place on Thursday and Friday of June 22-23 are “alleged contraventions and poor administration in the application of European rules relating to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion”.

In layman’s terms, this may be the moment that the proverbial hits the fan.

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