BES/ GES banking collapse: D-day, nine years on

Judge to decide this afternoon whether 25 official suspects face trial

One of Portugal’s most discussed and drawn out legal cases – relating to the BES/ GES banking collapse nine years ago – will be finally moving from first base today; at least that is the plan.

Judge Pedro Santos Correia, who took over this case after years in which it was in the hands of another judge, is expected to announce his decision at Lisbon’s Central Court of Criminal Instruction, sealing the future of the 25 ‘official suspects’.

According to public prosecutors who gave evidence at the instructory debate in May, “there is sufficient evidence for all the defendants to be put on trial, pronounced in the exact terms of the indictment“.

Say reports, most of the defence counsels of these defendants argue otherwise.

This so-called ‘pre-trial phase’ began well over a year ago – on April 26 2022, with investigations and press revelations having filled column inches in the immediate aftermath of the banking empire’s implosion in August of 2014, and intermittently ever since.

The case is being dubbed as “the largest in the history of Portuguese Justice”. It is certainly one of the ‘mega-investigations’ that has taken the most time getting off the ground.

SIC Notícias provides a brief re-cap: 

“On 14 July 2020, the investigation by the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCIAP) resulted in the indictment of 25 defendants (18 people and seven companies), including the former chairman of the Espírito Santo Group (GES), Ricardo Salgado. The former banker was charged with 65 offences, including criminal association, active corruption, document forgery, qualified fraud, money laundering, infidelity and market manipulation.

This case brings together in the main case 242 enquiries, which were joined, and complaints from more than 300 people residing in Portugal and abroad.

According to the MP, whose indictment totalled around 4,000 pages, the collapse of the Espírito Santo Group (GES) in 2014 caused losses of more than €11.8 billion.

Ricardo Salgado has always been the face of this case, albeit today he is a man said to be suffering the consequences of advancing Alzheimer’s disease and in no state to answer questions or face criminal charges.

UPDATE: Conceding the understanding of public prosecutors, Judge Pedro Santos Correia has ruled that all 25 defendants, even Ricardo Salgado in his debilitated condition, should face trial on the charges for which they have been indicted. His decision was greeted by cheers from outside the court where around 30 of the former bank’s customers who lost in many cases life savings were holding a vigil, hoping for this result.

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