EDP/ REN corruption “at risk of exceeding judicial time limits”

No sooner has it hit the nation’s headlines – bringing further, and extreme, embarrassment to Portugal’s so-called ‘political class’ – than the EDP/ REN corruption case has been dubbed “at risk of exceeding judicial time limits”.

Explaining what should be a legal impossibility, tabloid Correio da Manhã suggests the alleged scandal purported to involve hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money going the wrong way was first ‘brought to the attention’ of the authorities in 2012.

It has been on hold, says CM for five years – the last two of which were due to the amount of work investigators have had over the Marquês corruption probe, involving former prime minister José Sócrates.

Indeed, the two cases ‘overlap’ with other investigations, says CM adding that this is “not the first scandal to hit REN” (former REN president José Penedos is currently appealing a three-and-a-half-year sentence in the Face Oculta scrap-metal trial).

So what is this new investigation (that may lead nowhere) about? It is about ‘compensation payments’ made to EDP for the early cancellation of energy purchase contracts with supplier REN as the market became ‘liberalised’.

The idea of what became known as CMEC (Custos de Manutenção Equipamento Contratual) was first mooted by the PSD government under Pedro Santana Lopes, and implemented in 2007 by José Sócrates.

Names involved in the investigation are of directors all previously connected to the government or banking sector, explains Observador, with CM adding that EDP president António Mexia – one of four ‘arguidos’ cited on Friday – earned €6800 per day in 2016.

For now, the investigation is at what CM calls an “embryonic stage”. And this is the problem. With all the letters rogatory and ‘diligences’ that have to follow, the paper concludes “the truth is that with the investigation still at an initial phase, it will be difficult to get to trial without the crimes hitting judicial time limits”.

To try and get an idea when the clock on the case actually started ticking, CM says it has been in touch with the Attorney General’s office but has not yet received a response.

This is not the only case that may ‘disappear’ without anyone actually being found guilty in any way.

In Porto last week the ‘arguidos’ alleged to have kidnapped a businessman in Braga and disposed of his body with sulphuric acid looked likely to be ‘freed’ on a complex ‘technicality’ which would actually leave them at liberty to leave the country before a new trial could be set up.

The men’s writs of Habeas Corpus were being analysed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (see next top story).

But as far as the EDP/ REN investigation goes, the official line is that both companies are “fully cooperating with the authorities”.

António Mexia is joined on the list of arguidos by João Manso Neto, head of EDP’s renewables division, and REN directors João Conceição and Pedro Furtado.

Former minister of the economy Manuel Pinho is also being investigated, says CM – which revealed some rather embarrassing phone conversations, allegedly between Pinho and José Sócrates, in the paper’s Sunday edition.

At issue, according to a statement put out by the Attorney General’s office on Friday evening are suspicions of active and passive corruption.

Following the police raids on Lisbon offices of EDP, REN and the Boston Consulting Group on Friday, international news agency Reuters reported that EDP shares fell to by 1.34%, while REN’s “slipped 0.5%”.

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