Marcelo dubs ‘mega-cases’ like BES “good news”

It’s a strange way to classify endless law cases centring on apparent institutional corruption, but President Marcelo has dubbed as “good news” the fact that his long-standing friend and former banker Ricardo Salgado is to be tried for 65 crimes, among them criminal association.

Explains Expresso, Marcelo “knows that the torrent of judicial processes involving establishment VIPs will almost certainly become one of the ‘themes’ of the looming presidential campaign”. He’s simply getting all his ducks in a row before it gets started.

Thus, the massive lawsuit facing the man in whose Brazilian holiday home he vacationed is “a sign that no one is above the law”, says Marcelo.

The fact that it has taken six years since the collapse of Salgado’s family bank to get to the point where the former banking president has been charged is “better late than never”, and yes, the “Portuguese are tired” of so many mega-cases in which after “so many years, so much time” nothing really ever happens.

When he first ran for the presidency almost five years ago Marcelo stressed that he had no fear his friendship with Salgado would end up ‘prejudicing his campaign’.

The trick about friendships with ‘heavy financial hitters’ was “never to depend on them”, he told Expresso. It’s the “only way to speak with them on an equal, even superior, footing”.

The same cannot easily be claimed by Marcelo’s predecessor Cavaco Silva.

The former two-term president is back in the press today for the alleged financing of his 2011 campaign by an Espírito Santo Enterprize slush fund.

Explain reports, Ricardo Salgado and various other banking honchos (all now facing criminal charges) made ‘hidden payments’ from the fund which on their own never exceeded the maximum donation to a political campaign allowed by law (€25,560).

The ‘issue’ is that 10 of these payments were made.

In his defence (and he actually faces no charges at all) Cavaco Silva has said ‘that he had no friendship with Ricardo Salgado and even less knowledge about the financing of his presidential campaign. But this cameo is just an indication of the kind of ‘dirt’ that will be flying about (is already flying about) now that the full Public Ministry’s dossier has been revealed.

Different news sources are zoning in today on ‘different aspects’ of a trial that has all the ingredients to be ‘sensational’ but could so easily end up being a long-running legal chess game, the kind that loses spectators from boredom rapidly.

The country still awaits the ‘Marquês’ trial into similar alleged ‘mountains of corruption’ apparently orchestrated by former Socialist prime minister José Sócrates – and then there’s the ‘Tancos’ case (about disappearing munitions that then suddenly reappeared in a rainstorm in the middle of a forest) and quite a lot more.

But what the BES trial has that others don’t is the prospect of hundreds of claims for damages from the many former BES/ GES clients who say they were swindled by schemes run out of the bank.

Lawyer Nuno Vieira, representing these ‘BES victims’, has told Rádio Renascença that his clients are going to be demanding compensation “much higher than values currently practised by Portuguese justice”.

He called his plan ‘American-style’.

“We will try to demystify the issue of moral damages associated with loss of property which, in my opinion, has been pushed into the background in Portugal, relegated as a form of secondary thing”, he explained.

“We are going to do an exhaustive job; show that moral damages are serious, and cannot be ‘paid’ in the order of €15,000 as happens in many cases”.

Indeed Vieira suggests he’ll be gunning for moral damages of around €50,000 per client.

Vieira has ‘at least 850 clients’, says Expresso. Their claims are to be formally lodged in September.

Meantime, the ‘BES victims’ have asked to be considered ‘assistants’ in the Public Ministry case, which will give them various ‘advantages’, including the ability to pose direct questions (click here).

In all, the BES/GES list of accused involves 25 names, 18 people and seven businesses (national and foreign), all of them cited for economic-financial crimes ‘in which the central figure is former banker Ricardo Salgado’.

This clearly has been a tough week for 76-year-old Mr Salgado. Today has also seen him ‘lose’ an appeal against a fine of €75,000 imposed by the Bank of Portugal for being the architect of another less than above-board financial scheme. But his lawyer has stressed that Mr Salgado will be appealing the sentence to the Lisbon Court of Appeal.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com