Justice minister caught up in allegations of Golden Visa corruption

The name of Portugal’s new Justice Minister, Angolan-Portuguese Francisca Van Dunem, has been linked to the public ministry investigation into alleged systemic corruption in the issuing of “golden” residency visas.

Público breaks the story, explaining that like many instances that have come up in the case, it is all a question of people “oiling the sinuous channels of Portuguese bureaucracy”.

The trouble with this particular incidence of channel oiling is that it was caught on wire-tap, as the man whose influence was being sought – notaries’ boss António Figueiredo – was already under police surveillance.

Could Figueiredo hurry along a residency permit for “the son of good people… the son of a relative of Francisca”, he was asked. And thus Figueiredo got to work, with Público delighting in some of the commentary saved for posterity: “Ah, hum, really, a relative of Francisca Van Dunem? Tomorrow I will call Dr Manuel Palos of SEF directly…”

The oiling did not go without a few hiccups, however. It got to the point that Figueiredo was heard complaining over the phone to a businessman who went on to be arrested with him that he had been given the run-around by “all the police”, that the “whole mess was stuck in SEF” and that he had “that creature Francisca Van Dunem” complaining that her nephew risked missing Christmas with his family…

It is such a lunatic cameo of an investigation that appears to have decimated business generated by the Golden Visa programme that it almost certainly has to be true.

For now, Van Dunem is “refusing to comment” – given that she had talked to Público about another case, involving another relative in January, says the paper.

And the recipient of the fortuitously fast-tracked visa has told Público that he “doesn’t know what happened”, but that he “doubts” Van Dunem had anything to do with getting it, as their “family connection is not that close”.

Meantime, national news sources are reporting that the allure of the whole “golden visa programme” has been irreparably tarnished.

Since multiple arrests – and in some cases jailings – of key suspects, investment generated by the programme is well down – with not one visa attributed according to new “get clean” rules, introduced by outgoing golden visa ambassador Paulo Portas last year.

The new rules included awarding golden visas for people keen to embark on urban rehabilitation schemes, or in generating business inland.

None of these measures have led to any golden visas, writes Diário de Notícias, saying numbers generally are down by around 50%.

In its heyday – before the whistle blew on Operation Labyrinth – golden visas were responsible for attracting almost a billion euros (2014) – almost all of it focused on property transactions.

Last year, this figure had fallen to €466 million, and the number of golden visas attributed was equally down – 766 as opposed to 1576 in 2014.

Of that number, 719 were given as a result of property transactions, 46 for capital transfers and one for the setting up of a business that employed “at least 10 jobs”.

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