Five arrested in PJ operation ‘against corruption in exercise of public office’

CHEGA calls for dismissal from government of minister João Gomes Cravinho

Five people have been arrested this morning – and a total of 19 made ‘official suspects’ – following an operation by PJ police over suspicions of corruption and other crimes in the exercise of public functions at the Ministry of Defence.

Dubbed “Perfect Storm”, the operation has been described by a source within the PJ as “a criminal investigation into the possible commission of crimes of active and passive corruption, embezzlement, economic participation in business, abuse of power and money laundering, all of which are related to contracts awarded by a central government body to several companies, which have damaged the Portuguese state by many thousands of euros”.

Much more on this will be coming clear through the course of today (see below).

Early reports suggest the investigation is centred on “acts practised between 2018 and 2021”.

Around 200 investigators have been involved in today’s multiple searches, including a judge and two Public Ministry prosecutors.

UPDATE: CHEGA calls for dismissal of minister João Gomes Cravinho

The first ‘reaction’ to today’s news of these arrests came from right wing party CHEGA, which is calling for the dismissal from government of minister João Gomes Cravinho.

Mr Cravinho was minister for defence during the years in question. He is now minister of foreign affairs.

CHEGA leader André Ventura wasted no time in calling a press conference today, explaining that his party will be calling for the dismissal of Mr Cravinho by prime minister António Costa later this afternoon.

Mr Ventura put the situation into some context, following the announcement by CNN Portugal that one of those arrested today has been Alberto Coelho, the former director general of Resources of National Defence:

“In 2018 and 20019 we had reports from the Public Prosecutor’s Office with the Court of Auditors that there were severe slippages (at the ministry of defence). At the time of the change of ministry – following pressure from Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa – João Cravinho transitioned from Defence to Foreign Affairs, and he lavished praise on his former director of National Defence Resources”.

Mr Ventura told journalists that João Gomes Cravingo was “repeatedly questioned” about the slippages, but “decided to do nothing and the Government decided to do nothing”.

It is still unclear what pushed this investigation along. Is it another case of an ‘anonymous complaint’?

Again, more will start coming through later today.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com