It has taken years of litigation, but on Thursday Portimão magistrates finally found António Mira, the former deputy mayor of Monchique, guilty on seven counts of embezzlement and four of falsification of documents.
Handing out a five-year jail sentence, this is to be suspended on the understanding that Mira repays all the money he has been found guilty of stealing over the next four years.
The total amounts to “more than €332,000 with interest”, reports Público – adding that the lawyer representing the council that set out to prosecute Mira almost six years ago feels that “justice has (at last) been done”.
On top of the repayment proviso for remaining out of prison, Mira has also been handed an immediate €6,000 fine, adds Público.
For the collective of judges, the trial proved that António Mira practised his crimes “with intent”, said the paper. While he held political office – in charge of Monchique’s finances between 2003-2009 – he acted “with the intention of appropriating funds for himself”.
Mira, however, still sees the situation differently. He explained that his fudging of paperwork to get the council to effectively pay for certain bills more than once was a way of paying for staff overtime that couldn’t otherwise be compensated.
“It was a badly considered attitude,” Mira admitted, but stressed none of the money – handed to staff in envelopes – ever ended up in his own pocket.
“It paid for extra hours worked by some members of staff and their holidays after the fires of 2003-2004,” he told the court.
Mira’s ‘time at the top’ came during the 27-year ‘reign’ of former Monchique mayor Carlos Tuta.
After current Mayor Rui André took office, Mira’s accounting ‘attitudes’ quickly came to light – resulting in an investigation by DCIAP police of Portimão.
But Thursday’s result may not be the end of the story. Sulinformação reports that Mira is set to appeal.
This would no doubt drag matters out even further, when what Monchique council really wants, explained mayor André to the news service yesterday, is to be compensated for all the money that has been embezzled.
One interesting point that came out in court was that it was not just Mira who appears to have been involved in the handing out of envelopes with undisclosed sums inside them.
Sulinformação reports that witnesses say Tuta too appears to have been involved.
The news site explains that judges “considered that of a universe of 250 municipal workers, only six declared they had received payments from outside in envelopes”, and “the amounts fell far below the global value diverted from the municipality by the defendant”.