Football freebie controversy exposes additional politicians and Galp’s “multiplicity” of tax issues

Fuel giant Galp may be ruing the day it decided to charter planes to take its many friends to enjoy Portugal’s Euro 2016 games in France, as the fallout appears relentless.

Yesterday, secretary of state for fiscal affairs Rocha Andrade was forced to pay-up for his €2,190 jolly – despite the fact that his ministry insisted it was all perfectly “socially adequate” for a politician to accept such lavish invitations (click here) – while today further juicy details of Galp’s guest list are emerging.
Along with Rocha Andrade rode two other secretaries of state: João Vasconcelos (economy) and João Costa Oliveira (internationalisation).

Both may be bemused by the brouhaha – since the government’s official position remains that freebies like these are “completely natural” – but they have agreed to reimburse Galp as a way of calming the gathering storm.

Needless to say, parliamentary colleagues who were not on Galp’s guest-list are calling for the men to resign or at the very least to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, while the Attorney General’s office has reportedly opened an inquiry into whether or not they have committed a crime.

One could almost imagine that Galp could come out of this quids-up, as guests apparently scramble to repay the company’s generosity, but the furore has shone unpleasant light on the millions the company has owed the State since as far back as the turn of the century.

President Marcelo, now in Brazil, has been pressed for a reaction, which he is reported to have declined – saying that he will talk about the case when he comes back “if there is the need to”.

Defending the principles of transparency “in the abstract”, say reports, he did stress the importance of saving public spending and not confusing between political power and economic power.

Further attempting to take the heat out of the situation, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva – government spokesman over August as his colleagues enjoy the sun – has pronounced the controversy “closed”.

“And so that there are no doubts in the future, the Executive will approve this summer a code of conduct to which politicians will be bound”, he told reporters.

His assurances have not had their desired effect, as newspapers point out there is already a code and it is pretty clear: “the undue reception of advantages is punishable with a prison term of up to five years, or a fine amounting to 600 days”, says article 372 of the Penal Code (2010), while anyone caught extending material advantages to a paid employee of the State is liable to three years in jail and a fine of 360 days.

Galp is unlikely to be writhing in any kind of fear, however, as the Penal Code has a ‘get-out’ clause, exempting situations of “socially adequate conduct” – which is what the government appears to be hanging onto.

Nonetheless, the oil company will not be delighted by the glare of publicity on the hundreds of million euros that it owes the tax man.

National newspapers have been quick to research the details and find no less than 10 court cases currently languishing in the country’s judiciary.

“Just in income taxes for 2015, (the company) should have paid more than 219 million euros”, explains Correio da Manhã – and that’s before the thorny issue of the “extraordinary contribution” tax, which “already exceeds 130 million”.

CM claims Galp’s “problems with the tax authority” began in 2001, “when it was the subject of various inspections relating to exercises that went back to 1997”.

Right wing Público is nothing like so critical, suggesting the oil giant’s black marks began only a couple of years ago.

But the truth is that this is the kind of controversy that August’s ‘seriously silly season’ will delight in, and the month still has three weeks left to run.

[email protected]