Former SEF chief suspected of corruption clinched top job in PS Socialist council
The picturesque municipality of Penamacor

Former SEF chief suspected of corruption clinched top job in PS Socialist council

…. Another embarrassing case rounds off turbulent week

Following another few days in which various embarrassing situations have jarred ruling PS Socialists, Expresso reports that a former head of department at SEF, suspected of crimes of corruption and abuse of power, was nonetheless given a top job on Penamacor Socialist council (in the Castelo Branco district).

The appointment was made last year after Mr Ramos had taken early retirement from SEF, explains the paper.

This week, a court in Lisbon found José António Ramos’ guilty as charged and handed him a four-year suspended prison sentence.

Expresso contacted Penamacor municipality’s press office “to obtain a reaction from the councillor (…) namely to understand why he stood for office at a time when he was already the target of a lawsuit.

“Despite an initial commitment to send a response, the same office ended up not giving any further feedback”, wrote the paper, adding that it had also sent a request for comment to Mr Ramos’ email address.

Then, this afternoon, came the news from a ‘PS source’ that “the councillor has decided to suspend his activities at the council”.

“Another local Socialist source” told the paper that Mr Ramos’ election to the council last year caused “unease” within the party and divided the council.

“Some people were surprised at his candidacy and profile. But the process went forward,” lamented this other source.

Mr Ramos was one of three ‘in the dock’ in Lisbon. He was charged with facilitating residency visas in exchange for presents and meals in restaurants.

According to tabloid Correio da Manhã there were also sexual favours involved.

Says Expresso, the charge sheet read that  “António Ramos repeatedly responded to requests for favours addressed to him by other people,  acquaintances and colleagues, to which he acceded, either by interceding directly and speeding up the processing of the respective processes, or by personally attending to the applicants in his office, in a clear abuse of the powers conferred on him as Head of the Department of Document Issuance of the Regional Directorate.”

The 58-year-old was not the only one involved. Colleague António Branco was also found to have abused his position at SEF, receiving a slightly shorter jail term, also suspended.

The third person charged was a Chinese businessman, described as the ‘active corrupter’ of both men. He received a four and a half year jail term, also suspended.

Questioned on this situation, and the perceived incompatibility involved in hiring an individual already being investigated for corruption, João Batalha of Transparency and Integrity (Portugal’s offshoot of Transparency International) said there is “no legal mechanism that makes this councillor lose his mandate”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com