Appeal court judges praise Operation Marquês, affirming Sócrates “still a flight risk”

He may have been variously slammed by opponents as a “tabloid judge”, an “embarrassment” and someone with “no sense of justice” but appeal court judges ruling on the bid by former prime minister José Sócrates to be released from preventive custody could not be more supportive of the investigation led by Carlos Alexandre.

In a statement released last week giving all the reasons why Sócrates should remain in cell number 44 at Évora jail, Agostinho Torres and João Carrola had nothing but praise for the way super-judge Carlos Alexandre has handled Operation Marquês.

“We are in total agreement with the justification presented showing preventive custody to be the only means possible to prevent the strong possibility of destruction and/or alteration of proof,” they wrote – adding that the investigation jointly led by Alexandre and public prosecutor Rosário Teixeira has identified a number of family members and others “close to José Sócrates” who remain at liberty but are nonetheless suspect of having been involved in the several million-euro web of alleged corruption and deceit.

Sweeping aside the complaints by Sócrates’ outspoken lawyer João Araújo that “gross illegalities” had been sanctioned by the investigation, the judges confirmed “the court has rigorously complied processual duties”, particularly when it comes to “fundamental rights”.

They further described the one-time leader of the Socialist party – indeed the man who delivered Portugal into the hands of the troika in 2011 – as a manipulator with “grave failings” when it came to his sense of honesty.

Citing the sharp-practices used to promote his book “A Confiança no Mundo: Sobre a Tortura em Democracia” (Trust in the World: About the Torture of Democracy), the judges added there was “extremely strong evidence” to show Sócrates’ “elevated capacity” to manipulate facts.

As to his flight risk – another of the reasons prosecutors are loathe to see him freed from jail – both judges agreed there were clear reasons for believing Sócrates might try running “to Brazil or Venezuela”.

As the details of their ruling are splashed over the national media, one thing is crystal clear. Sócrates’ defence that the millions involved were loaned to him by his friend Carlos Santos Silva – also held in preventive custody – is simply not going to wash.

“Any normal citizen would be stupefied by the enormous sums of money alleged to have been loaned with no apparent intention of return,” wrote the judges.
“We don’t believe, minimally, in the argument of friendship.”

By NATASHA DONN
natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

Photo: NUNO VEIGA/LUSA
Caption: A group of citizens showing their support for former PM José Sócrates (inset) outside Évora jail in late February