Authorities search Loulé City Hall for clues about Operation Marquês

Portugal’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (PGR) has confirmed that searches were conducted at Loulé City Hall on Thursday afternoon (July 2) relating to Operation Marquês, which involves jailed former prime minister José Sócrates and an alleged multi-million euro corruption racket.

It did not confirm, however, if the searches had anything to do with the recent Vale do Lobo scandal, which allegedly saw Sócrates bending planning laws in favour of the luxury resort.

The PGR says no further information is being provided due to Portugal’s judicial secrecy law.

According to Lusa news agency, the searches were conducted by magistrates, members of the national tax authority (AT) and PSP police officers.

As has been reported, the most recent Operation Marquês twist involves suspicions that the ex-PM may have accepted bribes to delay the approval of the PROTAL planning law by seven months in 2007 so that Vale do Lobo could carry out the construction of luxury properties near the sea.

There are also suspicions over a link between the approval of PROTAL and transfers to Switzerland of €12 million, made by one of Vale do Lobo’s owners Hélder Bataglia in 2008-2009.

The money reportedly passed through an account held by Grupo Lena construction company boss Joaquim Barroca Rodrigues and ended up in an account of Carlos Santos Silva, who is suspected of holding money by use of his lifelong friend José Sócrates (see story Vale do Lobo now a “key link” in Operation Marquês corruption investigation

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]