Early on Wednesday morning 70 police inspectors from the national anti-corruption unit led simultaneous ‘searches’ of the luxury homes, quintas and offices of key players in the once mighty Espírito Santo financial empire.
From Comporta to Évora and on to Estoril and Cascais, furniture, jewellery, works of art, cars, boats and other upmarket items were ‘seized’.
That doesn’t mean they were taken. They are simply now “earmarked” by the authorities and cannot be sold.
As national tabloid Correio da Manhã explained, former directors of BES, Ricardo Salgado, his cousin José Manuel Espirito Santo and Amílcar Pires – once signalled to take over from Salgado as the bank’s boss – are now “faithful depositories” of the wealth identified, and cannot sell or otherwise dispose of a thing.
The nation’s media has commented that the move which follows earlier ‘searches’ impounding over a billion euros worth of Espírito Santo family property all over the world will give hope to thousands who lost money in the BES collapse.
The plan is that in the event of criminal prosecutions these items and properties can be sold to compensate victims, papers explain.
As for the way the searches were conducted, Correio da Manhã claims that “once again, the operation did not rely on the emission of arrest warrants… just of search”.
The searches went ahead in “the greatest secrecy”, the paper added – so as not to give any prior notification to anyone involved.