British resident embroiled in national investigation

by ELOISE WALTON & CHRIS GRAEME

news@algarveresident.com

A long-term Algarve resident embroiled in an alleged corruption investigation involving the Freeport shopping outlet near Lisbon has told the Algarve Resident that he and his family are “just trying to get on with our life as normal”.

Charles Smith, who has been a resident in Portugal for more than 20 years and now lives in Quinta do Lago, is a former partner in the consultancy company Smith & Pedro, which was employed by Freeport Plc to obtain the necessary licences and planning permission for the outlet shopping centre at Alcochete, south of Lisbon.

It is understood he is being investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as part of its inquiries into the affair, although an SFO spokesman said this week that they were unable to comment on the case.

Speaking to the Algarve Resident on Tuesday this week, Charles Smith said: “We’re just trying to get on with our life as normal. All will become clear but we are not making any comments now. Our life has been over exposed already.”

Meanwhile, Portugal’s Prime Minister, José Sócrates, has reacted with indignation at allegations from Portuguese newspaper Sol and TV station TVI of having improperly used his influence when he was environment minister to break EU agreements to fast track planning permission for the Alcochete development.

Claiming he was the victim of an “underhand political scheme to discredit him” in the run-up to the general elections, José Sócrates said in Porto on Saturday that the smear campaign was no way for his opponents “to win an election”.

“If anyone thinks they can beat me in this way then they’re sorely mistaken,” he said less than 24 hours after his office issued a signed repudiation of all the accusations levelled at him over the Freeport case.  

The following day, Sunday, Portuguese daily newspaper Diário de Notícias reported the existence of a document dating from 2005 where the first judge involved in the Freeport case had shown concern that “the development of the (planning) process had taken place at an unusually fast pace”, being rushed through in only 20 days instead of the usual 100 days.

Then, on Monday, José Sócrates’ cousin, Nuno Monteiro, allegedly told Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã that a controversial e-mail suggesting the involvement of José Sócrates in the case, sent by his brother Hugo Monteiro to Smith & Pedro, had turned up in the British investigation into Freeport Plc following a police search and seizure of documents at Freeport’s offices in the UK.

Freeport, now part of the American company Carlyle Group, has stated that it is available to “cooperate in all current investigations related to Freeport’s planning permission process” but stressed that its current board of directors and principal shareholders are entirely different from before the company’s sale.

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