Former Portuguese vice-consul accused of embezzling nearly €1 million… and nowhere to be seen

Adelino Vera-Cruz Pinto is the latest high-ranking former government employee to go on trial for fraud and deception.

The former Portuguese vice-consul for Porto Alegre in Brazil – appointed during the last government of José Sócrates – is charged with falsification, qualified fraud and money laundering.

The story highlighted this week by Portuguese media is of such “exceptional complexity” that it required “international judicial cooperation”, explains the website of Lisbon’s Attorney General.

Pinto “deceived priests and bishops”, national tabloid Correio da Manhã explains, “promising them that Portugal would finance the restoration of churches with Portuguese origins” and “convincing them to transfer 30% of the value of the projects to his own account”.

“Adelino Pinto received almost a million euros, and spent the money in spas, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies and IT shops”, adds Diário de Notícias.

His “various stratagems” included effecting ‘escrituras’ (the signing of official deeds of ownership) “to prove the existence of an NGO that never existed”, the paper reveals.

CM claims two Portuguese priests and one bishop travelled to Portugal from Porto Alegre, to be received by a woman in Lisbon’s ancient Basílica da Estrela. The paper is unaware how Pinto organised the reception, but it was designed “to give credibility” to his nefarious plan.

The woman in question “presented herself as the person in charge of the NGO that would be subsidising the projects”, CM adds.

As DN confirms, the “facts refer to 2010 and 2011. Under the promise of obtaining resources from Portugal for the work in parishes, the then vice-consul of Portugal in Porto Alegre convinced the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church of the Capital to deposit 2.5 million Brazilian reais in his bank account in return for a donation of 12 million reais through a Belgian NGO, led by Teresa Falcão e Cunha.

“Neither the NGO nor the woman have ever been located. The donation never appeared. And the defendant never returned the money.”

CM claims the police investigation “concluded that his (Pinto’s) wife participated in the plan” and is also “accused”.

“The couple has had their property seized and bank accounts frozen,” the paper adds.

But what is more to the point is where Pinto and his wife are now.

DN does not refer to any kind of geographical location, while CM suggests they have disappeared altogether.

“Considered a fugitive from Brazilian justice which ordered his preventive custody in prison, the diplomat is wanted by Interpol, and the last time he was seen was September 2014, in Lisbon”, writes the paper.

Thus what real effect the ensuing court case will have remains to be seen.

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