Judge Ivo Rosa didn’t just called in sick on the eve of the opening of the ‘most complex criminal inquiry in the history of Portuguese investigation’ (click here), he did so after returning a fortune to a member of the banking family involved.
Manuel Espírito Santo has benefited from the decision (taken last Friday but only reported yesterday) to a tune of around half a million euros, writes Correio da Manhã.
Among assets ‘unfrozen’ by Judge Rosa is a Cadillac, two properties and a €30,000 monthly pension, says the paper.
The Public Ministry can appeal Judge Rosa’s decision. If it does, the appeal will be heard by judges at the Lisbon Court of Appeal “who in the last few years have annulled various decisions by the magistrate of the Central Court of Criminal Instruction” (meaning Judge Rosa).
The issue nonetheless is the drip-drip undoing of measures taken in the past ostensibly to ensure that ‘victims of BES’ will have some collateral to draw from in the event of ‘guilty verdicts’ (click here).
According to CM, the reason behind Judge Rosa’s decision was that he could not identify facts within the Public Ministry’s investigation that showed Manuel Espírito Santo was likely to “sell, cede or hide property”, or indeed drain his bank accounts.
As has become predictable with Judge Rosa, he criticised public prosecutors for “not succeeding” in providing this proof.
CM also fills in some of the ‘blanks’: Manuel Espírito Santo suffered a stroke in 2019. He has been bedridden – disoriented and unable to make decisions – “depending on the help of third parties in all basic everyday activities” ever since. Due to the seizure of his assets – decreed by Judge Rosa’s ‘opposite number’ at the criminal court, Carlos Alexandre – the added burden of financial difficulties complicates the situation.
According to the Public Ministry, Mr Espírito Santo’s alleged criminal activity resulted in losses of “around €4 billion”. The assets initially frozen were already insufficient to guarantee any kind of compensation to victims of the banking debacle… in event of a future guilty verdict in the trial which has yet to begin.
The time it is taking to get this trial to court has already seen Mr Espírito Santo’s cousin, Ricardo Salgado – the former so-called ‘boss of all this’ – develop Alzheimer’s disease, and thus be in no position to answer questions.
As to the reason for the delay yesterday in starting the instruction phase of this investigative opus, CM says everyone was “taken by surprise” by the Judge Rosa’s illness.
The magistrate apparently called the news into the court “shortly after 9am” but did not elaborate on what is wrong with him.