An image taken from the meeting Joe Berardo had with MPs in 2019, after which PM António Costa said the country was "shocked" by Mr Berardo's 'rudeness'...

Government takes ‘unprecedented decision’ to ‘extinguish’ multi-million Berardo (arts) Foundation

The government has started the  “extinction process” of Portugal’s Fundação Berardo – in better days revered for its work in promoting the arts until it came horribly clear that its patron, a man holding high honours, was not running the institution correctly.

José Berardo is currently on the largest bail ever met in this country: €5 million. He faces criminal accusations of having ‘damaged’ State Bank CGD to the tune of €439 million.

Once hailed as ‘the richest man in Portugal’, he has no less than three large banks demanding their money back (click here), which reportedly amounts to roughly €1 billion.

This new ‘extinction process’ (initiated earlier this week)  isn’t directly connected with the various criminal processes underway – but it comes because of them.

It is the first time a Portuguese government has taken such a ‘drastic step’ (extinguishing a private foundation). The impetus came from an audit by the general inspectorate of taxes (IGF) which concluded the foundation “promoted activities outside its legal scope”.

Explaining the situation a little more clearly, Observador online says: “at issue is the use of Berardo Foundation funds for the benefit of the family of Joe Berardo”.

The IGF audit is now “under investigation by DCIAP, the central department of investigation and penal action”, its contents covered by Secrecy of Justice.

The foundation had already lost its ‘Statute of Public Utility’ (in February last year) for “failure to comply with the legal duties of transparency defined by the Law governing foundations”. Today’s news was perhaps ‘only to be expected’, but it is another hugely damning blow to Mr Berardo himself, who attempted to finesse his way out of these problems at a catastrophic meeting with MPs in 2019 that set the backdrop for everything that has happened since (click here).

Media outlets now are stressing that no-one knows if the Berardo Foundation HAS any assets – as so many art treasures and works have been ‘seized’ in the name of existing criminal processes.

It is understood to own a stunning mansion (Quinta Monte Palace) in Mr Berardo’s birthplace Madeira, as well as shares in various companies. 

According to a former business partner, the foundation was simply ‘a front’ to milk ‘tax benefits’. But it “may have shares in the Associação Colecção Berardo, which has the art collection on permanent show at the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon”, say reports.

Whatever its assets, once the process of extinction has been concluded, a process of liquidation will follow – and the ‘damaged’ banks which are creditors of the foundation will be first in line to receive.

“What doesn’t go to the banks should go to pay the tax department, Social Security, employees and other creditors”, writes Lusa. “And if anything is left, it could remain in the sphere of Berardo and his family”.

This is another ‘coup’ for the workings of Portuguese justice (albeit it has taken YEARS to reach this point).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com