Judge Ivo Rosa

BES trial “at risk”

Judge’s health issues inch towards moment where ‘crimes’ could lapse

The pre-trail hearing of the BES/GES case – the criminal investigation involving the largest private banking collapse in Portuguese history, and allegedly one caused by unashamed criminality – is ‘at risk’, admits national media, because the judge in exclusive charge of it is still ‘off sick’ having had heart surgery.

In the immortal words of the parrot sidekick of the evil Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin “why am i not surprised?”

No-one will be surprised. Many would say this is exactly what has always been the plan: spin this scandal out until either the defendants die naturally in their beds; the judges die naturally in theirs – or are too medically unwell to exercise their duties – or the crimes actually reach the point where they simply disappear into a convenient blur of putrid ether.

The BES/ GES case has taken almost eight years to get to its pre-trail hearing that has been twice ‘delayed’.

It should have begun early this month. It was then delayed until yesterday – and it has now been delayed again, until April 26.

In the meantime, the main defendant – former ‘boss-of-all-this’ (within the banking empire) Ricardo Salgado – has developed Alzheimer’s. It has been made clear he won’t be fit to answer questions – indeed, his lawyers feel the case against him should be thrown out as he is no longer aware of his actions – and some of the 361 crimes stacked up against him and the other 30 defendants are seeing the promising light of obsolescence glinting through the pall of inaction.

As Lusa has pointed out, the “most publicised defendant in this case is the former president of GES, Ricardo Salgado, accused of 65 crimes, including criminal association (1), qualified fraud (29), active corruption (12), money laundering (7), document forgey (9), infidelity (this must mean banking infidelity – 5) and market manipulation”.

The State news agency accepts that this is “one of the largest cases in the history of Portuguese Justice, bringing together 242 inquiries which were annexed to the principal case, and the complaints of more than 300 people, singular and collectives, resident in Portugal and abroad.

“According to the Public Ministry (MP) whose case involved around 4,000 pages (of evidence), the fall of Grupo Espírito Santo in 2014 caused damages (mainly to the State, ergo Portuguese taxpayer) of 11.8 billion euros”.

Expresso has taken the story a little further – suggesting even this third date of April 26 won’t see the judge “in condition to start work”.

A source who “did not want to be identified” told the paper that Judge Ivo Rosa won’t be fit to go back to work under such a short time schedule.

So, now judicial authorities “will have to decide what to do”, says Expresso.

This could involve ‘redistributing the case’ to another judge. But that would mean the judge being given (quite considerable) time to read through the case, and having to work on it ‘exclusively’ due to its “great dimension and complexity”.

This could see the crimes, for example, of document falsification and (banking) infidelity lapse (these are levelled against a number of the defendants).

Says Expresso, the limit for the lapsing of these crimes is five years since their practice, plus half again plus three years (the paper does not explain how this formula is devised). Suffice it to say, the total number of years is 10 and a half – and we have already seen eight ‘fly by’ with nothing of significance passing through a courtroom.

For these crimes not to lapse, things would have to speed up to a degree very possibly unseen in the history of Portuguese Justice; clear all available appeal hurdles and reach the finishing line, which in Portugal is called “transitar em julgado” (it is a point long after the judge/ panel of judges has actually passed judgement…)

The limit for the lapsing of the other more serious charges is longer, admits Expresso: 18 years. But with the way things have been going, no one will be taking any bets on these charges not reaching the ‘at risk of lapsing’ point, either.

natasha.donn@algarversident.com