Armando Vara arrested in connection with “suspicious Vale do Lobo deal”

Former bank administrator Armando Vara – who is already waiting on an appeal to see him absolved of a five-year prison sentence in the ‘Face Oculta’ corruption trial – has again been arrested, this time as part of the long-running Operation Marquês investigation, which involves jailed former prime minister José Sócrates.

Vara was arrested yesterday (July 9) in his Lisbon home and is suspected of “corruption, tax fraud and money laundering”. The suspicions are linked to his involvement in the purchase of 25% of the Algarve resort Vale do Lobo by Portugal’s state-owned bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD).

According to national media, authorities are looking into the motives that led Vara to sponsor the deal during his time as CGD administrator.

It is said that the deal saw the bank losing “over €100 million”.

The remaining 75% of the resort’s capital was purchased by a group of businessmen, among which is Hélder Bataglia, the man who is said to have transferred around €12 million to Swiss accounts linked to another suspect of Operation Marquês, Carlos Santos Silva.

Silva would allegedly then pass on the money to his friend José Sócrates, who is also implicated in the investigation for having allegedly bent planning laws in favour of the resort.

CGD has since put its share of the resort on the market. It is reported that the bank and other resort bosses are around “€300 million” in debt.

Armando Vara spent the night at the PSP Lisbon Metropolitan Command and is expected to be interrogated today by ‘super judge’ Carlos Alexandre.

Searches were conducted at Vara’s home as well as at the headquarters of CGD.

As Diário de Notícias points out, Armando Vara is the second former government member to be arrested in this investigation after ex-PM José Sócrates.

His CV includes spells as Secretary of State for Internal Administration, as Minister of Sports and Youth, and as vice-president of the BCP bank.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]