Cronyism within Portugal’s PS Socialist party? Tabloid opens new ‘can of worms’
CM's lead story today

Cronyism within Portugal’s PS Socialist party? Tabloid opens new ‘can of worms’

… “criminal case hits heart of Socialist apparatus”

On the very day the ‘incompatibilities row’ affecting various Socialist government ministers and secretaries of state is due to be debated in parliament, tabloid Correio da Manhã has ‘blown the whistle’ on an ongoing investigation into alleged cronyism affecting “the heart of the Socialist apparatus”.

The story is being widely shared, and picked up by other media sources.

It focuses on finance minister Fernando Medina, former economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira, environment minister Duarte Cordeiro and former culture minister Graça Fonseca.

All four are allegedly being investigated for ‘ajustes diretos’ (deals/ agreements/ financing without any recourse to public tender) which “will have damaged the public purse to the tune of thousands of euros, violating the public contracting law”, says CM.

“At issue are contracts signed between 2014-2018 by lawyers’ office Linklaters, founded in Portugal by Pedro Siza Vieira and the Municipal City Hall of Lisbon.

“The contracts were signed by Fernando Medina – when he was a councillor -, Duarte Cordeiro and Graça Fonseca, also councillors when Medina was president of the municipality.

Linklaters “earned more than €800,000 in legal services, directly or indirectly through Lisbon City Hall. As far as CM has learnt, the Public Ministry is currently investigating more than half a million euros” of this money. 

“The majority of the contracts concerned litigation between Parque Mayer and EPUL (the municipality’s public urbanisation company).

“Siza Vieira’s company was called to resolve matters and charged €180 per hour, exclusive of IVA”.

CM stresses that this investigation has been under the auspices of DIAP (the department of investigation and penal action) since 2016 – and “still has no official suspects”.

But it is running “alongside other processes with common protagonists”. Investigations that focus on “acts of management of the previous city hall which was in the hands of the PS”.

Says the paper, it has become clear the investigation is “causing discomfort within the judicial system”. It has gone on for five years, with few tangible results.

Of the various messages sent to Siza Vieira, Duarte Cordeiro, Graça Fonseca and Fernando Medina, it appears only Corderio and Medina responded. The former to say all the contracts signed “were instructed by town hall services”; the latter stressing he was unaware of the DIAP investigation, couldn’t off hand remember all the contracts but that Linklaters had been hired in the way it had because “the cases were the same” (litigation involving EPUL).

As the paper recalls, PJ police mounted various searches of Lisbon City Hall when Medina was president.

A commentary piece by director general Eduardo Dâmaso today describes the situation as “a political and judicial swamp (…) Suspicions hanging over the Socialist management of (Lisbon) municipality are brutal”, he writes. 

“But the Public Ministry is not coming out of this well either. In leaving investigations like these to drag on, incapable of injecting any kind of dynamism that would accelerate an accusation or otherwise, that would clarify what actually happened, how it happened, with whom, and what laws or not were violated, it is a sick Justice. 

“This is a Public Ministry in retreat from the work ethic it once had. It is in itself an attack on the idea of the Democratic Rule of Law. 

“For our part, we will do what is required of us: public what we know and (can) confirm – always with the interest of the public and our readers above anything else”.

SIC television news/ ECO online and other media sources have acknowledged CM’s investigation, giving briefer versions of today’s front story as the feeling nationally ‘that the absolute Socialist majority’ acts as if it has some kind of Divine impunity has once again been magnified.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com