Infamous “Portimão Urbis/ Turis” corruption investigation at last inches forwards

Years after being cited for alleged corruption that lead Portimão council to a state of crippling bankruptcy, former Portimão council bosses Luís Carito and Jorge Campos are finally about to face the music.

The duo – arrested in June 2013 in a series of raids that actually saw Carito ‘eating’ one of the documents seized by PJ police inspectors – have at last been formally charged on suspicions of corruption, ruinous management, economic participation in business, criminal association and abuse of power.

At least 19 other arguidos – including former mayor Manuel da Luz – face related accusations which were published this week on the official Lisbon DCIAP site (central department of investigation and penal action).

A dispatch from the Public Ministry states that at issue are contracts realised by municipal companies Portimão Urbis and Portimão Turis in 2009, and between 2010 and 2013, “relating to renovation work at Portimão stadium and to the town’s so-called cinema cluster”.

These proceedings, the MP explains, went ahead “in the absence of rational management” and, “in violation of constitutional and administrative rules and principles”.

The works were intended and managed to succeed in what the MP calls “enrichment” of one of the council bosses and “diverse private contractors who took part in the proceedings carried out by the respective municipal companies”.

Says Público: The actions, according to the (public ministry) document caused “huge losses to the State”.

A calculated “global value” puts damages at 4.6 million euros, for which the State has already lodged a claim for damages, the paper adds.

Tracing a bit of the background to this dismal story, Público explains that “in June 2013, the president of the Câmara of Portimão announced an external audit of municipal company Portimão Urbis, following a police investigation that resulted in the arrests of the deputy mayor (Carito) and one councillor (Campos)”.

That audit laid bare the desperate state of Portimão council’s finances.

But the story since then has obviously moved on. Algarve website Sulinformação explains that Carito initially spent time in preventive custody, while all the other defendants rounded up were just ordered to remain in their areas of residence (TIR). He then left prison, to house arrest on an electronic bracelet.

Seven months after this change in circumstances, Carito was allowed to “swap the electronic bracelet for periodic presentations” at the local police station – and at this point he returned to his pre-council position working as a doctor in the town’s health centre.

Campos, too, has seen his terms of ‘arrest’ relaxed over the years, to the point where they are now at the lowest level (TIR).

As Sulinformação points out, it has taken three and a half years to formulate accusations for all those thought to be responsible for Portimão’s financial downfall, and even now there is no date for a court hearing.

But what is interesting is the news in Correio da Manhã (last Sunday) that former mayor Manuel da Luz, who has for all intents and purposes dropped off the radar since leaving the council in historic levels of debt, is one of the many ‘arguidos’ despite the fact that he has always maintained he knew nothing of the alleged financial skulduggery at play during his two-term mandate.

Says CM: “Even though Manuel da Luz is not cited for criminal responsibility, this does not exonerate him from eventual financial responsibilities”.

Delighted to hear that the financial mismanagement for which Portimão citizens “are still paying” is at last approaching some kind of ‘karma moment’, the coalition party Servir Portimão has called for an urgent meeting to decide whether or not the town council should push forwards with a civil case for damages.

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