It promised the spice of a new banking ‘scandal’, but authorities have been swift to quash last week’s newspaper exposé in Público, alleging that the Bank of Portugal had denounced “suspect money-laundering operations” at CEMG – Caixa Económico Montepio Geral, better known as Montepio Bank.
At issue were “failures in the control mechanisms” that suggested “crimes of money-laundering and the financing of terrorism”, wrote the paper, adding that the transactions all originated within Finibanco Angola, 61% owned by the Montepio Geral association.
Managing to include big-name businessmen already connected to the alleged corruption of BES boss Ricardo Salgado, Público pointed the finger at Montepio’s boss Tomás Correia suggesting he had opened the bank up to unsecured loans.
The Bank of Portugal entered the storm, saying it could neither confirm nor deny the story as it did not “comment on actions relating to supervised banks”, the Public Ministry was equally non-committal, and Montepio reacted to the effect that it was all lies and the bank would be suing Público accordingly.
By Monday, everything had changed. Montepio had retracted its threat of legal action, the Public Ministry agreed yes it had received the alleged “denouncement” from BdP and BdP explained in a statement that its complaints centred on the “suspicion of money-laundering” between clients of the bank, and “not necessarily the institution itself”.
Thus for the time being the whiff of scandal has been dissipated.