“Controversial” judge named official suspect and ‘principal target’ in new operation into alleged corruption and influence trafficking

Controversial judge Rui Rangel – already linked to an investigation into alleged corruption, and most recently removed from any decision-making in the high-profile case against former prime minister José Sócrates – has today been made an arguido in an operation based on suspicions of corruption, money laundering, qualified fiscal fraud and influence trafficking.

Says television news channel SIC, Rangel, 72, was the principal target of Operation Lex that went ahead early this morning.

His home and office at Lisbon’s Court of Appeal were searched along with at least another 30 locations, including residencies, law offices and businesses.

The homes and workplaces of Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira were also targeted, as was the residence of Rangel’s ex-wife, herself a judge, Fátima Galante.

PJ detectives working in collaboration with the Public Ministry are said to have launched this latest probe on the back of testimony taken in Operation Rota do Atlântico – a case in which Rangel is also an official suspect and under suspicion of having “received a fortune from football empresario José Veiga”, explains Público.

Operation Rota do Atlântico also involves the brother of recent PSD leadership contender Pedro Santana Lopes.

It is a complicated investigation centring on crimes of corruption in international business, fiscal fraud, money-laundering and influence trafficking (click here).

But this latest probe seems much more focused on Rangel, with tabloid Correio da Manhã reporting on Wednesday that this is a judicial scandal at the highest level.

Rangel is fielding accusations that he was basically ‘rewarded’ for favourable judicial rulings – in this case the resolution of a €1.5 million debt that one of the son’s of Benfica president Vieira had at Sintra’s administrative and fiscal court.

Five people have been taken into preventive custody – among them Rangel’s former companion and the mother of one of his children who is purportedly accused of money-laundering.

CM stresses that Rangel and his ex-wife Galante cannot be held in custody, as ‘the detention of judicial magistrates is only possible if they are caught red-handed’ (this comes from a communiqué on the Attorney General’s site). Thus the duo have been notified to appear before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice on February 8 and 9, in the morning, “so that they can be questioned”.

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