Football bosses ‘go after’ Portugal’s anti-corruption MEP Ana Gomes

Benfica football club has announced it “will be suing Ana Gomes, euro MP, for false declarations, calumny and defamation”.

The news, reported by sports newspaper Record, comes as Rui Pinto – the alleged ‘whistleblower’ behind the 2017 Football Leaks ‘scandal’ that opened a Pandora’s Box on tax dodging schemes in the world of international football – has been extradited to Portugal to face criminal charges (click here).

Gomes has been openly supportive of Pinto – saying his information has been “extraordinarily important for the defence of public interest” – particularly as it has helped “several European authorities go after corrupt people and recuperate millions that had been hidden from taxes”.

But her’s is not a ‘popular opinion’ in a country where football is seen to be ‘on the right hand of God’, and Pinto is painted as a malevolent ‘hacker’.

Talking to Record in an interview published on Sunday, Gomes was drawn on ‘the possibility that Pinto could have accessed Benfica emails’ saying “there is a past of deliquency” attached to Benfica boss Luís Filipe Vieira, and that “numerous elements point to the fact that Benfica may have a special interest in having someone who has a large number of documents from several clubs being brought under control, along with his archive”.

She told Record: “We know the club’s top official is referenced in various lists of large debtors in the country who have not paid several loans…”

And she said that Benfica was one of the Portugal’s clubs “most involved in accusations and allegations of involvement in schemes of corruption”.

“Not just the club” in fact, but those “principally responsible” for it.

Other news sources reported over the weekend that Public Ministry investigators are most certainly investigating “suspicions of fiscal crimes committed in Portuguese football”.

Rui Pinto is reported to have been visited by Portuguese tax inspectors as he awaited the extradition process in Hungary.

According to SIC television the inquiries were unrelated to the case that led to (his) extradition.

Inflaming the situation could have been Gomes’ comments about what she considered the “extraordinary” fact that both Benfica and its management body have skipped accusations in the criminal case e-toupeira (click here).

“There is something very alarming about the levels of intimidation that explain that certain sectors within the police and judicial system do not act as they were supposed to be required to act,” she said.

Gomes is due to stand down as a Socialist MEP after the European elections in May, but she has said she will be continuing to concentrate on tackling corruption – whether in Portugal or elsewhere.

Reacting to news that Benfica and Luís Filipe Vieira intend to sue her, Gomes has been sanguine, sticking by her words, and ‘awaiting developments with all tranquility”.

This is not Gomes first public run-in over so-called defamation. In 2017, Douro Azul shipping boss Mário Ferreira vowed that he would be pursuing her through the courts the minute her immunity as an MEP ran out for what he denounced as “lies” about his bargain-basement purchase of a cruiseship that cost Portuguese taxpayers €70,000 (click here).

Again, Gomes has remained steadfast over everything she said, contending that she didn’t actually name anyone as responsible for the so-called corruption in this case, just that the issue “smells” of it.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com