“For now, authority of former mayor (current finance minister) not at risk”
Another day, another whiff of scandal: this time in Lisbon where searches took place earlier this week in the city council’s department of urbanism.
Fall-out from the searches led by PJ judicial police has been wide-ranging. The city’s mayor Carlos Moedas has said he will be proposing the creation later this month of an ‘anti-corruption department’.
Tuesday’s searches were, it transpires, related to previous terms of office – meaning the years in which current finance minister Fernando Medina was Lisbon’s mayor.
According to SIC at issue are suspicions of corruption and economic participation in business and falsification between the years 2015-2017.
Yesterday, the time frame was narrower: 2015-2016, and specific contracts were mentioned, between the town hall and “JLD Consultants, Unipessoal Lda, Joaquim Morão Lopes Dias, a well known Socialist party member and former mayor of Idanha-a-Nova and Castelo Branco).”
Quizzed yesterday by TVI, Fernando Medina said he had no knowledge of any investigation, adding only that “Lisbon Municipal Council’s contracting processes were instructed by the services competent for contracting, in compliance with the applicable rules”.
This is not the first time Mr Medina’s name has been linked with investigations of this kind.
It is not even clear if the investigations trailed by Correio da Manhã in October are connected to the searches that went on this week.
But they have unleashed another flurry of press excitement, to the point that President Marcelo has been questioned today over whether Fernando Medina “has conditions to maintain in office”.
Fernando Medina’s latter years in Lisbon were marked by the unsettling issue of the council sharing the names of dissidents with the regimes those dissidents had fled. The result, in final analysis, was that the council was heavily fined.
But the head of State’s answer to whether Mr Medina has potentially over-stepped the mark was that “there is a long way to go yet”.
The fact that someone’s name is mentioned at the start of an investigation does not mean it will be relevant at the end of the investigation. “There must be an immense number of people with public responsibilities at various levels that are the object of this investigation”, mused Marcelo.
Asked though whether there are simply too many cases “involving the name of Mr Medina”, Marcelo replied: “I don’t know what is too many cases. There are media sources that make an enormous list of what they call revolving doors, jobs, and jobs, and jobs and such like, showing that really one is dealing with a very old reality in democracies, as well as in Portuguese democracy, only that the attention of public opinion is not the same… So it is natural, it is part of the transparency of democracy. If there are doubts, doubts must be raised, they must be clarified: there is nothing illegal or incorrect or irregular, full stop, paragraph.”
Marcelo began his response to journalists today stressing that he does not comment on specific cases. Thus for now, it is business as usual: this is an inquiry ‘at its inception’, without defendants. No arrests have been made.
Back at city hall, Carlos Moedas insisted that his workforce is “cooperating in everything and therefore the city council will obviously collaborate with justice”.
He added: “It is really important to set an example in politics”, adding that he, Carlos Moedas, is the “first mayor of Lisbon to create a department for transparency and the fight against corruption”.