Carlos Tavares talking to Antena 1
Carlos Tavares talking today to Antena 1/ Jornal de Negóçios

Former financial regulator suggests TAP scandal ‘not over yet…’

Carlos Tavares accuses TAP board of directors of lying; says airline should be sanctioned

With the crisis within Portugal’s government receiving international scrutiny, former CMVM (securities markets commission) boss Carlos Tavares has thrown more fuel on the fire.

In an interview today with Antena 1 and Jornal de Negócios, the economist and one-time minister of finance (in the PSD government of Durão Barroso), insists there has been a “violation of the securities code” in the case involving Alexandra Reis which triggered a series of hugely embarrassing exits by government officials since Christmas.

It is no news that TAP’s statement to the CMVM did not outline the true reason for Ms Reis’ eye-watering ‘compensation’ payment.

Instead of referring to conflicts within the boardroom (more precisely, with TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener), the company’s statement alluded to Alexandra Reis’ seeking to embrace ‘new challenges’.

In other words, TAP lied to the CMVM – at least this is what Carlos Tavares has taken from the situation.

He told his interviewers, there is a process these kinds of issues should follow; a process that was clearly not followed, and thus TAP “should be sanctioned”.

Tavares went so far as to say he didn’t even see why the conflict of opinions between Ms Ourmières Widener and Ms Reis required the latter’s departure.

If there were disagreements, you don’t resolve them by removing a person you disagree with, but by going up to the board of directors and the board would make its decisions,” he said.

But regarding the much more serious question of ‘lying’/ “violating the securities code”, Mr Tavares believes the CMVM (which he no longer leads) “should act.

“In the current code, an infraction of this type is treated as a simple administrative offence; very serious, I think, but I think the sanction is relatively limited”.

Nonetheless, in Carlos Tavares’ mindset, “this type of situation should be considered a crime”, explains SIC television news – which is almost certainly why opposition parties have been baying for consequences and refusing the government’s mantra that the situation is “closed”.

The interview touched on all aspects of the TAP golden-handshake scandal, and the after-shocks of what other news outlets have described as a “time bomb” that set off a wave of exits from the absolute majority government.

Carlos Tavares – experienced after all as he is in the workings of government –  said the situation of  ‘unsuitable candidates chosen to serve’ could so easily be avoided if said candidates adopted a modicum of ‘self-scrutiny’.

“People who are invited (into government) should ask themselves if they have any problems, any questions, even expertise for the job”, he said..

“There must be great care on the part of those who select”, but it cannot be a process in which those chosen for top jobs do not play a part themselves.

His words follow days in which press allegations about the perceived unsuitability of Carla Alves (who lasted 25 hours as Secretary of State for Agriculture) have lurched every which way. Even today there was a story in Correio da Manhã suggesting Ms Alves and her husband – in the eye of an investigation into suspicions of corruption – benefitted from a controversial paving of two roads leading to a property in their names.

The €400,000 spent on these improvements increased the value of their property, but involved the municipality in further debt – and allegedly “took the opposition (party) of Vinhais to the brink of nervous attack”.

This latest allegation was just the most recent. There have been others, suggesting Ms Alves was never a good choice for the job of Secretary of State for Agriculture.

Said Mr Tavares, “there is no certainty” that people currently in charge of public positions “are the most suitable” for that function.

“I have doubts that in some cases people have the right CV for the situations”, he told his interviewers. “The practical consequence is that we have no security that people in positions are the best there would be in the country…”

This ‘lack of security’ is at the heart of the political situation in Portugal today which international media organisations see as the “biggest confidence crisis shaking (Mr) Costa’s leadership”.

Should this crisis continue to snowball, “the mounting pressure may even lead the President of Portugal to dissolve the parliament”, wrote Euronews last night.

President Marcelo however has been keen to insist this is the last thing he intends to do… for now.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com