Minister of Sea among government ‘bigwigs’ to be heard over Marquês

With the country’s media revisiting all kinds of alleged skullduggery within the labyrinthine Marquês corruption investigation – involving former prime minister José Sócrates and a host of other VIPs – news this morning puts current Minister of the Sea Ana Paula Vitorino ‘in the frame’.

Vitorino is one of eight former ministers “from the time of José Sócrates” governments that will be heard in court, says Público.

Other important figures include former finance ministers Luís Campos e Cunha and Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, former minister of works Mário Lino (previously accused of providing false witness in the Face Oculta corruption investigation), his successor António Mendonça, former environment minister Francisco Nunes Correia, former culture minister José Pinto Ribeiro and a former secretary of state José Conde Rodrigues.

Marquês has identified 229 witnesses in a case that is well over a year from getting a court date, explain reports, thus it remains to be seen how much longer newspapers can rehash so-called inconvenient truths.

In the face of bizarre allegedly-tapped phone conversations and purported text messages Marquês principal defendants – Sócrates and former BES banker Ricardo Salgado – continue to affirm their innocence, while Attorney General Joana Marques Vidal has stressed that the Public Ministry is not in the business of invention.

“We do not invent cases. They appear because there are complaints; because there are documents. Investigations start because this is obligatory in the face of a determined set of facts,” she told journalists, reaffirming that her department “does not go looking for cases” either.

But the bottom line is that this huge focus on Marquês cannot bring a trial any closer.

An enormous amount of legal jiggery-pokery must follow, with every one of the 28 official suspects faced with charges now in the position of responding within the next 50 days.

Nonetheless, pundits are heralding the “end of a cycle”.

Said philosopher José Gil over national (Antena 1) radio, Marquês has been “historic” in that “whatever result” it eventually brings, Portugal has reached a “decisive turning point, unique in the history of judicial performance of the Portuguese State”.

“Up till now, the State accommodated a series of phenomena that influenced its mechanisms”, he explained – naming these phenomena as “corruption and promiscuity between political power and economic power”.

All this went ahead, with “total impunity and in silence”.

Marquês was (only) possible because of high-level staffing changes at the Attorney General’s office, Gil added: “from Joana Marques Vidal to (super) judge Carlos Alexandre who have total integrity and transparency”.

This investigation will not be the end of corruption in Portugal, Gil concluded, but it is “a landmark”.

And in the meantime, all the stories about millionaire ‘bungs’ and nudge-nudge-wink-wink business deals have yet to pass the scrutiny of the nation’s judiciary.

[email protected]