Ex-PJ high-flyer joins Sócrates “sitting it out” in Évora jail

The case that suggests corruption within Portugal’s law enforcement agencies is still very much alive now sees former PJ high-flyer Paulo Pereira Cristóvão behind bars and awaiting trial for aggravated robbery, kidnapping (three counts) and criminal association.

Following three days of interrogation at Lisbon’s central court of criminal instruction, Cristóvão and alleged associate Nuno Vieira – better known as ‘Mustafa’, the leader of Sporting’s youth league “Juventude Leonina” – were both informed they would be facing eventual trial from incarceration in preventive custody.

Cristóvão is understood to have been “confident that he would leave (the court) in freedom”.

According to news reports last night, he continued to “deny any involvement in the world of crime” throughout the lengthy hours of interrogation.

What appears to have worked against him, however, was the alleged confession of ‘Mustafa’, confirming involvement in at least one of the crimes for which he stands accused.

‘Mustafa’ is understood to have incriminated Cristóvão, and thus the decision late on Friday by judge Amélia Correia de Almeida to remand both men in custody.

As widely explained in the Portuguese media, Cristóvão is understood to have been the intelligence behind a criminal network that raided the homes of wealthy businesspeople in and around Lisbon and Setúbal – on at least three occasions even posing as policemen.

According to media reports, the targets were all picked after detailed “espionage” mounted by Pereira into how much in gold and valuables could expect to be found on the premises.

The gang is understood to have included at least three PSP agents – all of whom were rounded up in a swoop that saw 12 people arrested last summer.

With the detention now of Cristóvão, Mustafa and well-known photographer Nuno Lobito (who remains free on his own recognisance to answer the single charge of adhesion to a criminal association), the investigation is thought to be near conclusion.

But as he sits it out in Évora jail – sharing the premises with the country’s most high-profile ‘prisoner-without-charge’ former Socialist prime minister José Sócrates – what has caused such a stir in this case is not so much that Cristóvão was a former inspector in the Polícia Judiciária, but that he has also held top positions as vice-president of Portugal’s legendary Sporting Football Club and president of the country’s association of missing children (APCD).

He is still in fact facing prosecution over an investigation into corruption during his time at Sporting.

Caso Cardinal – again implicating Cristóvão in elaborate espionage, money laundering and fraud – saw the 45-year-old resign from his job, be slapped with a 15-month ban from sporting activity and fined €3000. And that was before the case even came to court.

The “Cardinal” trial is scheduled to open in Lisbon next month.

Cristóvão is understood to be blaming this latest arrest on “vengeance” directed against him by former colleagues at the PJ.

Like his record at Sporting, Cristóvão’s years at the PJ were not without controversy.

In 2009, he and another two colleagues were accused of torture. It was an accusation that failed to stick. The ‘victim’ Leonor Cipriano – mother of eight-year-old Joana Cipriano, the child who went missing without trace from her home in Figueira, in the Algarve, in 2004 – most certainly did suffer injuries while being held by Faro’s PJ, but the court ruled that it could not prove who had caused them.

Leonor Cipriano is still serving jail-time for the murder of her daughter, whose body was never found.

Cristóvão meantime was ready to move on.

Sol website writes today (Saturday) that the torture case was not the only blot on his record at the PJ. There were “various situations” that failed to be explained and “one disciplinary process opened after a girl – victim of a case he was investigating – accused him of sexual coersion. The case was withdrawn and the process archived”.

On leaving the PJ to become, briefly, president of the ACPD, Cristóvão wrote his version of the facts of the Cipriano case in a book entitled “A Estrela de Joana”.

Curiously, he also penned “A Estrela do Madeleine” shortly afterwards – which he described as “the opportunity to say that which until now has not been written and essentially which no one has thought or had the courage to reveal”.

Observador website writes the book led the parents of Madeleine, Kate and Gerry McCann, to lodge a case against him, but details of this remain vague. Certainly, his book did not gain the notoriety of that of former PJ colleague Gonçalo Amaral – who the McCann’s went on to sue for €1.2 million. The verdict on this long-running case is expected any day now.

Intriguingly, readers of Cristóvão’s book – still freely available online – were very enthusiastic about its message.

Said one: “Without wishing to detract from Gonçalo Amaral and “The Truth of the Lie” – a book I love and a man I find an inspiration – I actually think this book is better.”

It remains to be seen if Cristóvão will now embark on a book to explain this latest case in his remarkably colourful career.

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