Former economy minister fights back

Former economy minister fights back

Under house arrest for a year over case that began more than a decade ago

The defence of Manuel Pinho – former economy minister from the Sócrates years embroiled in the so-called EDP rents case – has gone on the attack, almost a year to the day that his client was placed under house arrest.

Ricardo Sá Fernandes has repeatedly highlighted what he believes are ‘illegalities’ of the actions taken against his client – namely the seizure of Mr Pinho’s pension, and searches carried out at his residence in Braga last month in which items like bottles of expensive wine, a pinball machine, even golf clubs were carried off by authorities.

More than specific moments in the decade-long investigation, Mr Sá Fernandes believes there has been a marked ‘lack of proportionality’ in the Public Ministry’s actions’; that his client is literally being subjected to “gratuitous psychological aggression”. 

What connection could bottles of wine, a pinball machine and golf clubs have with ‘benefits’ that Mr Pinho is alleged to have obtained through the crimes he is suspected of having committed, for which he has still not been tried, he argues.

Perhaps in countries like “Russia, North Korea or Saudi Arabia” seizures like this could be expected… “but not in Portugal. At least not yet”, argues the lawyer.

Thus the efforts to turn his clients’ predicament around – at least to see his pension restored and some of his personal wealth.

The whole case meantime has been one of those ‘high profile investigations’, constantly talked about in newspapers, but which never seems to reach its destination: a trial.

Years ago, national media suggested the investigation would “end up in the lake”, and/ or that legal time limits would kick in, leaving defendants finally with no case to answer.

Also involved in this case are former EDP top brass António Mexia and Manso Neto, as well as former secretary of state for energy Artur Trindade, former director at REN (Portugal’s energy network) João Conceição and former president of defunct bank BES Ricardo Salgado.

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