The controversial Mayor of Oeiras, Isaltino Morais, who was arrested last week to begin a two-year prison terms for tax evasion, passive fraud and abuse of power, was released less than 24 hours later on a legal technicality.
The man who has fronted the third richest urban borough for nearly 20 years and helped mastermind the arrival of several high-tech business parks and shopping centres in the ‘conselho’ was released by a high court judge at Oeiras Criminal Court.
Isaltino Morais, who had spent the night in Polícia Judiciária prison cells in Lisbon, later returned to his offices in the historic centre of the town where he has ‘reigned’ like his ancient predecessor, the Marquis de Pombal, through a string of clientele dependencies that have never been successfully broken or challenged.
Opponents have always argued that Isaltino Morais, despite his overwhelming popularity in the area, was able to withstand criticism and moves to remove him because he has employed so many police and their dependants in the borough.
Arrested on Thursday after exhausting all appeals, he was taken into police custody to begin serving his sentence. The CDS MP, Isabel Sande e Castro called for snap elections and accused PSD council officers of “fostering policies of convenience with Isaltino Morais.”
Calling his imprisonment a “judicial error” Isaltino Morais stated publicly that “what happened should never have happened”.
Morais’ lawyers successfully argued that the mayor’s detention was illegal. Now it is up to the Constitutional Court (TC) to decide what should happen to the Mayor of Oeiras.
In 2005 he left the PSD party because it had not supported his candidature for the Câmara, because of the accusations against him which also included money laundering.
Following the accusations and charges he was found guilty and given a six year prison term, ordered to surrender his office as mayor and pay a fine of €463,000 to the State in August 2009.
However, he appealed the sentence, which was suspended, and was free to stand again in the Oeiras elections where he again won on an independent ticket in the 2009 elections.
In July 2010 the Supreme Court reduced his sentence from six years to two years on appeal for tax evasion and money laundering but was released on Saturday on the technical principle known as ‘in dubio pro reo’ (favourable doubt to the defendant).