Formal charges in Freeport Case to be made by the summer

The police and Public Ministry investigating alleged corruption crimes over the fast-track planning permission of a British factory outlet near Lisbon have until the summer to make formal charges.

The Freeport Case, which emerged in 2005 and involves a number of legal suspects, including Scottish businessman Charles Smith, could go to trial later this year.

Some of the legal suspects or ‘arguidos’ have to be formally charged with crimes of corruption and traffic of influence before the date limit for maintaining judicial confidentiality runs out this summer.

However, Prime Minister José Sócrates, who was Minister for the Environment when planning permission was granted for the retail park in 2002, is in the clear and has not been made a legal suspect.

A five year investigation has effectively enabled legal beagles and environmentalists to charge that the planning permission for the designer label shopping outlet was done with backhanders and bribes.

Police in the United Kingdom and Portugal have discovered secret bank accounts for such payments but have been unable to ascertain if the licence for the retail park was done illegally.

In November, the British side of the investigation was shelved but continues in Portugal with new allegations that the Prime Minister’s cousin, Hugo Monteiro, had used the family name and political connections to win a project, with the knowledge of the then Minister for the Environment, José Sócrates.

Chris Graeme