Lucília Gago
Lucília Gago. Image: José Sena Goulão/ Lusa

Attorney General to give “special priority” to investigation of crimes committed by politicians

Lucília Gago “feeling attacked by colleagues” since ups and downs of Operation Influencer 

Attorney General Lucília Gago has broken her habitual “modesty” (the words of Expresso today) to address the “bushfire” that has broken out against Public Prosecutors since searches that broke with the news of Operation Influencer and resulted in the resignation of prime minister António Costa.

The woman who leads the country’s prosecution service already used an event earlier this week to maintain that public prosecutors will “remain steadfast in face of those seeking to discredit and destroy them”. But today her office (the PGR) has issued a new 16-page directive, via its official website, in which it announces that “special priority will be given to the investigation of crimes of corruption, influence peddling, embezzlement, and economic participation in business, including those committed by political office holders or senior public officials”.

The document, which lays out instructions for the implementation of the Criminal Policy Law for 2023-2025, also states that in the area of corruption and economic and financial crime there should be “special attention to the risk associated with the increase in public funds made available to combat the economic crisis“, as well as to the “risks of abuse of specific regimes of flexibility in public procurement procedures“.

In other words, it represents a direct challenge to the PM’s notion set out in one of the speeches he gave giving his take on Operation Influencer.

Guidelines for the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) over the next two years also include paying “particular attention” to the recovery of assets, both in terms of identifying, locating and seizing them, as well as their possible allocation.

To this end, “priority should be given to the application of mechanisms for the confiscation of advantages” and the Regional Attorney General’s Offices and District Attorney’s Offices should “develop actions to raise awareness and promote” these asset recovery mechanisms.

Although this is a general guideline, Lucília Gago instructs MPs to “endeavour to avoid the formation of large and complex cases“, as well as to strengthen the direction of investigation by defining the subject of the case and an investigation plan (if necessary with other criminal police agencies).

These ambitions will have been reinforced since last month, when a torrent of criticism was unleashed against public prosecutors following the searches that ultimately toppled the government.

The fact that a judge ‘dismissed’ public prosecutors’ concerns over the five official suspects – dispensing entirely with the accusations of crimes of corruption levelled against them – has simply added to the ‘heat’ – a lot of coming from within the public prosecutor hierarchy.

As Ms Gago said earlier this week: “The deep and intertwined roots of the attacks on a proven judiciary, unscathed by criticism from those who seek to diminish it, discredit it or even, surreptitiously or subliminally, destroy it, are now clear to see”.

Her mission now is to deal with them.

Other crimes

As for other investigative priorities, such as domestic violence, the PGR calls for the collection of evidence, namely statements for future reference, risk and damage assessment and requests for protection measures for victims and coercion for aggressors, given the urgent nature of these cases.

In situations of flagrante delicto, recourse to summary trial should also be considered.

With regard to human trafficking and aiding illegal immigration, the directive reinforces the need to report all enquiries into these matters to the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCIAP).

It also adds that district coordinators should encourage procedures with social and immigrant support bodies and the Labour Conditions Authority to detect and report these crimes more quickly.

Cybercrime is also among Lucília Gago’s guidelines, noting that in cases where victims’ privacy has been violated by disclosure on the Internet, the Public Prosecutor’s Office should resort to blocking online content, giving “special priority to the investigation” in order to protect the victims. If justified, there should also be liaison with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the family and minors jurisdiction.

The PGR directive, dated November 2 but only now released, also states that in crimes committed against or by an agent of authority, “competence for the investigation should not be delegated to the criminal police body in question, but should, whenever possible, be carried out by the magistrates” of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Source material: LUSA/ SIC Notícias