Judge Carlos Alexandre – the prosecutor dubbed ‘superjudge’ by the popular press for his zeal in combatting corruption – has ordered the ‘freezing’ of the €20,000 a month pension paid to former economy minister in the government of José Sócrates, Manuel Pinho.
SIC’s Jornal da Noite explains the move has been prompted by the Public Ministry’s understanding that Mr Pinho “recently transferred more than two million euros, in a suspicous way – part of it abroad” to “banking institutions in Brazil, Switzerland and Germany”, and some to private accounts in Spain (where he and his wife have a property, and where they were living before their arrests).
According to SIC, prosecutors’ fears throughout this investigation is that Mr Pinho would be able somehow to make his assets ‘disappear’ – hence the decision to act now.
The development means that in one fell swoop Mr Pinho will “pass to living with a little more than €2,100 per month”.
If nothing else, the news is yet further indication of the enormously high pensions former public ‘servants’ enjoy for the rest of their lives after leaving well-paid positions in government.
Mr Pinho is in the frame for allegedly corrupt practices in the so-called ‘EDP case’ (click here), which to be fair, have been written about and talked about ad infinitum for the best part of a decade.
SIC’s evening news programme boils the public prosecutors’ case down to suspicions that Mr Pinho made five million euros through his various alleged crimes of corruption, money-laundering and fiscal fraud; causing damages to the State of around €1.2 billion.
After years in which the investigation appeared to have been making little headway, judge Alexandre moved into a higher gear just before Christmas, ordering the arrests of both Mr Pinho and his wife and then freeing them under crippling bail terms – so crippling in Mr Pinho’s case, that he has opted to remain under house arrest with an electronic bracelet monitoring his movements ever since.
In freezing the pension (which other news sources have said is more like €15,000 a month), judge Alexandre has also effectively taken control of both Mr and Mrs Pinho’s bank accounts and put liens on their various properties.
According to SIC’s Pedro Frias these involve three houses in the name of Manuel Pinho and no less than 10 in the name of his wife (other news sources say seven, not 10).
Says Frias’ report, these new judicial orders were requested by the Public Ministry. Judge Alexandre “decided favourably” on the basis that the EDP case is “of special complexity, which allows the maximum time of preventative custody to be increased” as well.
Jornal da Noite suggests this could mean that Mr Pinho remains under house arrest until December.
The crimes stacked up against Manuel Pinho are multiple and various. He is also suspected of having been paid while he was in Mr Sócrates’ government by BES (the private bank that collapsed costing taxpayers billions of euros, not to mention prompting terrible losses for many of the clients as well).