FBI “investigate” former Portuguese economy minister over EDP deal said to have raked in €510 million

Portuguese prosecutors have purportedly enlisted the help of the FBI to investigate payments made to the Upper Manhattan Columbia University by EDP during the time former economy minister Manuel Pinho was invited to lecture there.

This is the bottom line of an “exclusive” broken today by national tabloid Correio da Manhã, suggesting that “magistrates are trying to link patronage (to the New York university) with benefits obtained in the negotiation of rents” paid by EDP while Pinho was at his post during the first Socialist government led by José Sócrates.

The background to the story is the disputed €510 million which electrical regulating entity ERSE considers EDP received unduly in State ‘compensations’.

These compensations, dubbed “Custos de Manutenção do Equilíbrio Contratual” or simply “CMEC” have brought millions flooding into EDP since their negotiation (between EDP’s then boss and Pinho in 2007). They remain, to this day, “a significant part of the income of the company in Portugal”, explains Público.

The Portuguese investigation into the minutiae of CMEC began in 2012.

SIC television this morning has picked up on the story, saying left-wing MPs are at their wits end trying to ensure the €510 million is paid back to consumers who have essentially been paying over the odds for electricity since CMEC was negotiated.

But clearly prosecutors are trying to establish a scenario of ‘collusion’.

Says CM they are particularly keen to understand EDP’s €300 million in donations (between the years of 2010 and 2013) to the private Ivy League research university. The sum “included the hiring of Pinho” who was invited to teach Global Energy Policy after he left Sócrates’ government in 2010.

Portuguese prosecutors hope to be able to “cross reference data between donations made by EDP” and contracts relating to CMEC forged with Pinho, explains the paper.

Assistant prosecutor Rita Costa Simões was purportedly in touch with the US securities exchange commission (stock market regulator) in 2016, explaining that Portugal would like details of “donations made” to the university “amounts and dates, the conditions in which they were realised and the department benefitted, documentation that sets out the financial support and the conditions that defined the hiring of Pinho”.

Says CM, the commission put the matter in the hands of the FBI which fairly rapidly came up with a list of all relevant payments, showing it is “open to further research” if requested.

Meantime, Manuel Pinho is described as living in a “luxurious apartment near Broadway” purchased, says CM, through an offshore company.

Following up CM’s exclusive, Observador adds that Pinho was finally made an official suspect in the CMEC investigation last July and stands suspected of the crimes of passive corruption, economic participation in business (by dint of the introduction of CMEC) and the “supposed receipt of tradeoffs”, particularly regarding the arrangement with Columbia.

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