… as Altice International suspends top brass at Altice Portugal
Armando Pereira, the 71-year-old co-founder of telecoms giant Altice, has today been indicted for a total of 15 crimes (according to SIC Notícias; Lusa confirms 11) of active and passive corruption, money laundering and forgery in ‘Operation Picoas’ – the case that blasted onto the headlines in a flurry of police searches last Thursday.
Speaking to journalists outside Lisbon’s central criminal investigation court (TCIC), Mr Pereira’s lawyer Manuel Magalhães e Silva confirmed that his client is suspected of active and passive corruption in the private sector, money laundering and document forgery, but stressed he is not under suspicion of fraud – which is another facet of this convoluted investigation.
“What has been continuously said to be a monumental tax fraud is not imputed to Mr Armando Pereira,” he stressed, adding: “From A to Z, everything will be explained. He has read and reflected carefully on the indictment presented to him by the Public Prosecutor and is in a position to clarify all items of the indictment.“
The principal defendant in this investigation has been in police custody since last Thursday and will begin being questioned by Judge Carlos Alexandre, once questioning of Jéssica Antunes and economict Álvaro Gil Loureiro has been completed.
A 4th defendant, Hernâni Vaz Antunes – considered to be Armando Pereira’s ‘right-hand man’ – will be the last to give his statement, writes Lusa.
So far, Armando Pereira has spent six nights in police cells. The way things are going he may well spend a 7th night before hearing bail conditions.
Meanwhile, Altice International (the group’s parent company) has announced the suspension today of “various representatives, managers and workers”.
The announcement comes in the wake of Operation Picoas.
SIC says it understands that among those who have been “left on leave” are André Figueiredo, the head of real estate, assistant and chief of staff of former CEO Alexandre Fonseca.
According to the station, André Figueiredo was formerly the chief of staff of José Sócrates when Sócrates led the PS Socialist party.
“There are, however, two different versions of Mr Figueiredo’s suspension.
“Altice says that the initiative was taken by the company, which decided to “initiate an internal investigation in Portugal and other jurisdictions”, while Figueiredo has reportedly told SIC that it was he who took the initiative, in much the same way that his boss announced his own withdrawal from all his functions on Monday.
Says SIC, “It should be noted that André Figueiredo is neither a defendant nor a suspect in the Picoas operation. His suspension stems from the fact that he is chief of staff of a director who is suspended (Alexandre Fonseca).
What Altice has decided
In a statement issued today, Altice International said it “continues to carry out its activities in the normal way” following the Picoas operation, and it will continue to conduct business “with the highest integrity” in the best interests of all stakeholders.
Patrick Drahi’s group adds that an internal investigation has been launched in Portugal and other jurisdictions.
In the document, released almost a week after the Portuguese subsidiary’s headquarters in Lisbon were raided, the group says it “notes that Portuguese authorities have identified that Altice Portugal has allegedly been defrauded as a result of harmful practices and misconduct by certain individuals and external entities”.
“The Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office clarified that its investigation concerns harmful practices on which Altice Portugal and its subsidiaries are impacted and, therefore, victims of fraud by individuals,” explains the statement, stressing the group is working “actively” to protect its various interests, and will remain “available for any clarification”.
“With immediate effect, Altice International will review and strengthen the approval process for all procurement, payments, purchase orders and related processes both in Portugal and at Altice International level,” the statement continues
In addition, the group and its affiliates are currently reviewing appropriate next steps with their legal advisors and will consider all legal options, in all jurisdictions.