BES/ GES pre-trial process delayed until end January

Reason given as “judicial questioning of 35 suspects of migrant slavery in Alentejo”

The BES/ GES pre-trial process – a proceeding that has taken no less than EIGHT YEARS to reach this massively unimpressive juncture – has been delayed yet again, now to the end of January.

The reason given today is the “judicial questioning of the 35 suspects of enslaving migrants in the Alentejo”.

That anything like this can be written in all seriousness is just further indication that ‘justice’ in Portugal has a very long way to go. 

Contrary to the occasional declarations by politicians that ‘no one is above the law’, it would appear that some people really are – invariably rich people who are ‘battling’ against allegations of corruption.

In this case, one of the richest people involved (or certainly, one of the people who used to be very rich) is now 78; suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, and very possibly, unimputable. 

But we haven’t quite got there yet… 

For now, the questioning of three witnesses required to inch BES/ GES just a little further along in a judicial process that has taken so many years to get nowhere have heard they can stand down again… at least for another couple of months.

Among them is Christopher de Beck, former vice-president of BCP bank and himself a man that has had to battle the adversities of the Portuguese justice system, coming out in 2014 absolved of any wrongdoing, and very pleased about it too. “Obviously, justice was done”, he told reporters at the time – stressing the situation had still taken seven years out of his life. The only consolation, he said, was that he was at the end of his career, not the beginning.

That was over eight years ago.

And the ‘necessity’ to push this pre-trial phase back, again, comes from “one of the largest courts of criminal instruction” in Portugal, explain reports today. A court that used to labour under the restriction of having only two judges, but which now has eight, still cannot keep up with its caseload.

Says Lusa today, the BES/ GES case is “considered one of the largest in the history of Portuguese justice. This case brings 242 inquiries to the principal process and involves the complaints of more than 300 people – singular and collectives, resident in Portugal and abroad.

“According to the Public Ministry whose accusation covers around 4,000 pages, the collapse of Grupo Espírito Santo (GES) in 2014 will have caused damages of above 11.8 billion euros”.

But it is still more important to question a group of people suspected of trafficking migrants in plain sight in the Alentejo – a practice that has been going on for years, and which many fear has no end in sight.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com