Mayor and his deputy behind bars

Mayor and his deputy behind bars

… on day another mayor and various former council chiefs cited in new slew of alleged ‘white collar crimes’

Another day, another round of political scandal, this time not only affecting politicians of the PS Socialist party.

But first to the case that does: Orlando Alves, mayor of Montalegre since 2014, his deputy David Teixeira and the  the head of the division of Territorial Planning, Urbanisation and Public Works, spent the night in police cells to appear in court today to hear bail terms (if any) following their arrests yesterday.

The trio is suspected of six crimes: criminal association, prevarication, undue receipt of advantage, document falsification, abuse of power and economic participation in business.

According to reports, it is understood that during the nine years in which Orlando Alves was at the helm in Montalegre, “hundreds of contracts by ‘ajuste direito’ (direct contracts given with no recourse to public tender) and tailor-made tenders involving the businesses of family members” were celebrated. Sums involved “reached €20 million”.

Says Correio da Manhã : “Strong indications (of crime) led to the arrests of both Socialist councilmen and of the head of the division of Territorial Planning, Urbanisation and Public Works.

“The danger of continuation of criminal activity could leave all the arrested in preventive custody”, the paper adds, giving some of the details of the prosecution’s case against the three men.

It transpires that Alves and his deputy have actually been ‘arguidos’ (official suspects) in this investigation, dubbed Operation Alchemy, since 2020.

According to CM – and backed by other news sources – “the contracts in question were signed  by the municipality’s ‘number 2’ (meaning David Teixeira) so there was no obvious intervention by the president (council president/ mayor Orlando Alves). 

“Among those favoured, and already cited in 2020, were businesses connected to the brother of Orlando Alves, like Paula Cunha, Fábio e Ana, Lda., and Gafaestruturas Engenharia Lda. Both these were contracted by the municipality of Montalegre, even during the last two years.

“Beyond the arrests, Operation Alchemy included dozens of searches in homes, council offices and various businesses in Montalegre, Braga, Famalicão and Vila do Conde”, CM continued.

These searches involved judicial magistrates, public prosecutors, investigators and financial and IT experts.

The municipality meantime has stressed that both the mayor and his deputy are “available” for clarification “in the appropriate time and place”.

CM adds that both men “have been in the crosshairs of Justice due to the controversial concession for a lithium mine in Montalegre”.

Oeiras mayor charged with criminal misconduct along with various other former council leaders

On to the second round of political arrests yesterday: these concentrate on Oeiras mayor Isaltino Morais, a kind of modern day political Houdini released from jail eight years ago following conviction for white collar crime while in the office of mayor of Oeiras, only to have been returned, by a landslide, in the municipal elections of 2017.

Isaltino Morais began his political career as a PSD politician. He has since become an independent.

This week’s arrest, along with five other former mayors and high-ranking councillors – one of them now sitting on the PS benches in parliament – follows years of investigations.

SIC television news has given the background: “The Public Ministry says the mayor of Oeiras favoured a civil construction company in several public-private partnerships which will have damaged the municipality by millions of euros.

“In the indictment it is written that it was the intention of Isaltino Morais to carry out large-scale construction works, to show that he had done something and to have a better chance of being re-elected in the 2009 local elections.

“The problem? The indebtedness limit of the town council. The solution? A model of public-private partnerships, always with the same construction company: MRG”.

Prosecutors described ‘flawed tenders… announced with very short deadlines to hinder competitors, and with the guarantee that, in the hands of (MRG) would be, in time, privileged information”.

“This was the business model used for the construction of the Oeiras Congress Centre”, says SIC.  “The works stopped halfway through, when €12 million had already been spent. Now all that remains is a concrete structure, exposed to the wind and rain, albeit the resumption of construction work has been announced”.

Headquartered in Seia, but with its main offices in Coimbra, MRG is also said to have benefited from public-private partnerships in Mafra and Odivelas.

(Notes SIC: “The construction company has been on trial for the same type of scheme, in a corruption case involving MEP and former PSD mayor of Gouveia, Álvaro Amaro, the current mayor of Alcobaça and the former council leader of Trancoso”.)

This latest case has been bubbling away, according to reports, for more than a decade. Searches related to it took place in 2012, “but only now give rise to an indictment against eight defendants”.

These include Isaltino Morais, Paulo Vistas, the former deputy mayor of Oeiras, Susana Amador – former PS mayor of Odivelas, now sitting in parliament as vice-president of the PS parliamentary group, José Ministro dos Santos, former PSD mayor of Mafra, Gil Rodrigues, and Paulo Teixeira, a former Odivelas councillors.

All are facing one charge of ‘criminal misconduct in public office’, while chairman of the board of MFG Fernando Gouveia and chairman of the board of advisory/consulting company FSCD Marco Carreiro are also on the charge sheet.

Says SIC, the Public Ministry’s indictment is already in the hands of the President of the Republican Assembly (Augusto Santos Silva) and asks, that in the case of conviction, all politicans involved should lose their mandates and be prohibited from standing again for political office.

The crime of ‘prevarication by a holder of public office’ carries from between two and eight years in jail.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com