Golden Visa probe near close as Figueiredo leaves jail and Macedo sues for defamation

It has been a week of developments for Operation Labyrinth, the Public Ministry investigation into fraud and corruption surrounding the government’s issuing of golden visas.

First, the only defendant still in jail was finally released to house arrest on an electronic bracelet last Friday.

Former IRN (notaries’ institute) boss António Figueiredo had been in jail since November 13 last year.

Then over the weekend, the former Interior Minister who resigned over the scandal, Miguel Macedo, was implicated in another matter by national tabloid Correio da Manhã and TV channel SIC noticias, and is now reported to be suing CM for defamation.

SIC has since removed the content of its report from its site, simply referring to an email that Macedo is understood to have sent a friend over the €196 million tender to maintain Everjets firefighting Helicopters.

CM ran the story under the headline “Macedo suspected of receiving bribes”, explained Observador website on Sunday, and the former minister cited in the golden visa scandal has told journalists that this is “absolutely defamatory”.

CM’s story centred on Macedo giving his friend (also a defendant in the golden visa scandal) timely warning about the tender, described as Portugal’s largest in civil aviation.

Macedo thus becomes the latest former politician involved in a Public Ministry investigation to sue CM.

Former prime minister José Sócrates is also locked in legal combat with the national tabloid.

Meantime, CM reports that Operation Labyrinth should be ready to present formal charges by next Friday – one year on from its inception.

Along with António Figueiredo and Miguel Macedo, other defendants include the former secretary general of the administration of justice, Maria Antónia Anes, businessman Jaime Couto Alves and former SEF boss Manuel Jarmela Palos.

At least two Chinese have also been made defendants in the inquiry which involves SEF employees and business people.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]