“Blood mafia” paperwork has “disappeared” from health ministry

As the former head of INEM remains in police custody – an “arguido” in the “blood mafia” investigation probing an alleged State swindle of many millions of euros – news today is that vital paperwork has mysteriously ‘gone missing’ from the ministry of health.

The paperwork relates to decisions made by former secretary of state Manuel Pizarro, in place during the governments of José Sócrates.

Correio da Manhã claims that shortly after Sócrates’ election win in 2008, Pizarro took two decisions which were “highly favourable” for the company at the centre of the alleged ‘scandal’, Octapharma – the same company that went on to hire Sócrates after he left power following the country’s request for a €79 billion bailout.

Other documents on “controversial decisions” have also gone missing as today TSF radio reports that new police searches have been ongoing at INEM.

Operation “O Negative” as this is being called, has now involved over 30 searches of properties in Lisbon, Porto and Switzerland (the registered base of Octapharma) and seen five people (former INEM president Cunha Ribeiro included) given ‘arguido status’.

For now, however, Cunha Ribeiro is the only person being held in preventive custody (click here).

His co-arguidos are Elsa Morgado, a former member of the Portuguese Hemophilia Association, lawyers Farinha Alves and Luís Barros Figueiredo, and former INEM boss Paulo Campos.

Investigations are said to go back to 1999 when Octapharma first won its monopoly on the sale of blood plasma to Portuguese hospitals – a monopoly that persists to this day.

At issue, explains TSF radio, are suspicions of the crimes of active and passive corruption, the undue receipt of economic advantages and money laundering.

As we wrote this text, former Octapharma president Paulo Lalanda de Castro – who resigned his position in the wake of various ongoing legal cases in which he has been cited – was arrested in Germany.

Updates to follow.

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PHOTO: taken when Lalanda de Castro was made an arguido on Operation Marquês, involving former prime minister José Sócrates