Museu da Presidência da República

Former director of Presidential museum slapped with six year, six month jail term

Diogo Gaspar found guilty of litany of crimes

The former director of Belém’s presidential museum Diogo Gaspar has been sentenced today to six years and six months in prison, as part of the “Operation Knight” investigation, with the court applying suspended sentences to the remaining three defendants.

In the reading of the judgment today at Lisbon’s Central Criminal Court, Judge Luís Ribeiro considered proven the practice of 18 crimes, including embezzlement (seven), economic participation in business (four), abuse of power (four), falsification of documents (two) and influence peddling (one) by the former director of the museum. He dismissed 10 crimes of embezzlement, two of economic participation in business, three of abuse of power, two of forgery and one of money laundering.

Judge Ribeiro told Gaspar: “It was you who basically managed to set up the Presidency Museum. You were a trustworthy person, so you had a very close relationship with the presidents of the country. And you betrayed that trust, because you wanted to have more than you could have. This led you, for several years, in the context of various activities, various businesses, to always try [to see] where there was an opportunity to gain something more, directly or indirectly”.

The single sentence to be applied to Diogo Gaspar, according to the court, could have varied between the minimum of one year and six months to a maximum of 17 years and nine months. 

“The court set very minimal sentences. But this does not mean that (Gaspar’s) conduct over the years has not been extremely serious and continuous,” said the judge, who also ruled that the former museum director “must compensate the secretary-general of the presidency of Portugal”.

In relation to the other three defendants, the court found that they had “allowed themselves to be influenced” by Gaspar – described as an “extremely controlling” person.

Paulo Duarte was sentenced in accumulated sentences (suspended) of one year and four months for a crime of economic participation in business and one of abuse of power; José Dias was punished with a sentence (suspended) of one year and seven months (accumulated sentences) for two crimes of economic participation in business; and Vítor Santos was sentenced (suspended) to one year and two months in prison for economic participation in business.

Besides their sentences, the three defendants must also compensate the State in the amount of €4,000, €3,000 and €1,000, respectively.

Judge Luís Ribeiro also criticised the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) for not having granted exclusivity for this case, which started in October 2020.

The public prosecutor’s office had charged the four defendants with a total of 42 crimes, including abuse of power, economic participation in business, influence peddling, document forgery, embezzlement and money laundering. 

The investigation, which was in charge of the Department of Investigation and Prosecution (DIAP) of Lisbon, began in April 2015, following an anonymous tip-off.

The lawyer defending Diogo Gaspar – who had been director of the museum for roughly a decade (in other words, in place before President Marcelo took office) – has meantime intimated that his client will be appealing.

Source material: LUSA