Judges cited in corruption investigation go on attack

Former government ministry boss gets seven year jail sentence for abuse of power

João Alberto Correia’s case goes back almost 10 years

A former director of infrastructure at Portugal’s ministry of the interior (MAI), João Alberto Correia, has been sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison for economic participation in a business, abuse of power and falsification of documents.

A source linked to the case told Lusa that in this trial – held at the Lisbon Central Criminal Court, after the Lisbon Court of Appeal ordered a repeat of the 2018 trial due to issues related to the proof of the crimes – João Alberto Correia was acquitted of the crimes of corruption and money laundering of which he was accused.

João Alberto Correia, who was in pre-trial custody between 30 April 2014 and 30 April 2015 and under house arrest with an electronic bracelet between 30 April 2015 and 10 March 2016, has now been sentenced to a total of seven years and nine months in prison, with an accessory sentence involving a five-year ban on performing his duties.

The court, made up of the panel of judges Cláudia Melo Graça, Nuno Dias Costa and Helena Susano, also considered that the former MAI director-general had “incongruous assets” of more than €432,000, declared in the judgement as lost in favour of the State.

Several of the other defendants accused in the case were also convicted of economic and financial crimes, and the judgement was scheduled to be read last July.

In the first trial of this case, João Correia was sentenced in April 2018 to a single seven-year prison sentence for economic participation in a business, abuse of power and falsification of documents – as well as to pay civil damages of €585,000 and to be disqualified from holding public office for five years.

On appeal, the Lisbon Court of Appeal (TRL) cancelled João Correia’s prison sentence and the suspended sentences of the other defendants – and the case had to return to a lower court for a retrial.

In the overturned trial, the court found that the former director of infrastructures at the MAI had directly awarded public works contracts to companies owned by people in his personal and professional friendship circle, violating legal rules and procedures and disregarding public procurement legislation.

João Alberto Correia arrived at the ministry of the interior’s general directorate for infrastructure and equipment (DGIE) in 2011 and, according to the public prosecutor’s office, over the course of three years he allegedly collected thousands of euros of public money for himself and a large group of friends and other people.

According to the indictment, João Alberto Correia awarded contracts totalling €5.9 million during his time at DGIE.

Público adds that this new jail term will take into account the almost two years spent in various forms of custody, several years ago. But it certainly does not mean Mr Correia will be going to jail anytime soon. His lawyer has confirmed there will be an appeal… “Of course we will appeal. We have 75 days to do this, which takes us to the end of January”, he told Lusa today.

Source: LUSA