Photo: Kits handed out to in the village of Cogula, Trancoso. The snoods are clearly visible round the necks of the two people in the centre of the picture (one being former secretary of State José Artur Neves), as are the reflective jackets which firefighers also complained were sub-standard

Charges at last in case of State’s ‘inflammable snood scandal’

Ex-Secretary of State and former Civil Protection president among those facing charges

Charges at last have come in the hugely embarrassing “inflammable snood scandal” – embarrassing because it appears to have been a fraud sanctioned by representatives of the State.

This all kicked off in the summer of 2019, when safety kits distributed to populations by Civil Protection were found to be patently unsafe.

Large sums of money had been paid out for these kits – roughly €125,000 alone for so-called fire retardant polyester snoods which firefighters quickly realised would fall apart in high temperatures, smelling strongly of glue, without giving wearers any kind of protection at all.

The brouhaha that followed quickly developed into a complex probe.

Official suspects started being rounded up: former secretary of State José Artur Neves, his former young assistant Francisco Ferreira, former president of ANEPC, the national authority for Civil Protection Mourato Nunes and others, some with connections within the PS Socialist party.

According to the note published this week by DCIAP (the department of investigation and penal action), accusations include the crimes of fraud in obtaining subsidies and economic participation in business, money laundering and document falsification.

Various companies are also facing charges due to their perceived involvement in this scheme, which came in the wake of the killer fires of 2017 – and had been marketed as a way of authorities showing the lengths they were prepared to go to ‘keep citizens safe’.

Why it has taken so long for accusations to be formalised is anyone’s guess.

At the height of this scandal, former interior minister Eduardo Cabrita showed his irritation with journalists’ focus on the flammable quality of the snoods, pointing angrily at a microphone thrust in his direction saying “this is inflammable too!” Mr Cabrita, however, is not an official suspect in this case, which inches closer now to some kind of conclusion.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com