Freeport returns  to haunt PM’s election campaign.jpg

Freeport returns  to haunt PM’s election campaign

By Chris Graeme [email protected]

The ghost of the Freeport Scandal has returned to haunt Prime Minister José Sócrates’ election campaign after claims that the removal of a top TV anchor, hours before she was due to reveal bombshell revelations into the case on air, was politically motivated.

Media Capital TVI newscaster Manuela Moura Guedes was removed from her popular Friday night news spot over the weekend amid allegations that the Spanish-owned news group bowed under pressure from the José Sócrates’ administration.

The owners of the Media Capital Group, which runs the television station TVI, Spanish group Prisa, has denied that it has interfered with the decision in Portugal.

News of the fresh impending allegations was splashed over the headlines of virtually every national newspaper including broadsheets Expresso and Sol which have closely followed the Freeport Scandal story since it broke last year.

On Saturday, leader of the opposition Manuela Ferreira Leite (PSD) said that “silencing a TV news programme” was “a serious attack on press freedom” and that anyone who “dared to say anything against the José Sócrates’ government would suffer from reprisals.”


The President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, restricted his opinions over Manuela Moura Guedes’ removal by saying: “Freedom of the press is something precious that we fought for during the April 25th Revolution”, adding that he hoped that there hadn’t been “any censorship”.

At 3pm last Friday, the journalist Ana Leal was putting together, in utmost secrecy, the piece that a team of journalists had been working on for several days and which promised to reveal shocking new bombshell revelations about the Prime Minister’s part in the Freeport Scandal.

At 5pm, TVI news director Manuela Moura Guedes arrived at the station to prepare the news line-up. It was then announced that an inexperienced intern, Patrícia Matos, was to present the Friday night national news instead of Moura Guedes.

At 8pm, a piece, signed by Ana Leal, Carlos Enes and Moura Guedes on the Freeport Scandal opened the national news in which it was claimed that another of José Sócrates’ cousins, José Paulo Bernardo Pinto de Sousa, nicknamed “Gordo” (Fatty) had been involved in the scandal.


The latest allegations revolved around the witness statements of two defendants in the Freeport Case that had requested anonymity and who had told TVI about a man mentioned in e-mails, in the possession of the Portuguese police, whose code name “Fatty” was used by Scottish businessman Charles Smith and others involved in the Freeport Scandal.

In one of the e-mails, now in the possession of the PJ, dated May 18 2002, and sent by Charles Smith to his partner at Smith & Pedro, Manuel Pedro, the text allegedly read: “We have to ask Freeport to send 80,000 pounds sterling this week in order to pay ‘Pinochio’ (allegedly the code name for José Sócrates) something on May 31, as I have agreed with Bernardo (Sócrates’ cousin), so that nothing goes wrong” with the Freeport planning permission.

Later, on June 15 2002, Smith sent former Freeport director Garry Russell, the following e-mail: “I am worried that the agreement shouldn’t be signed until ‘Fatty’ can be told that a transfer had been made.”

Attempts by TVI to contact Paulo Bernardo Pinto de Sousa drew a blank over the weekend.

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