Ministerial car involved in fatal accident “belonged to a drug dealer”

News today is that the ministerial car that mowed down and killed roadworker Nuno Santos on the A6 last month doesn’t even belong to the government. 

It is the subject of a legal battle: the owner being a company involving the father-in-law of a convicted drug dealer.

Just when you thought this terrible episode couldn’t get any worse, it has.

To recap: the devastated family of Nuno Santos has still not received any official contact from the Ministry of Interior Administration, despite the fact that minister Eduardo Cabrita ‘broke his silence of the last two weeks’ on Friday to say that the Institute of Social Security has been “given indications to make contacts that would expedite legal mechanisms of support provided for in these circumstances”.

But in the lather of media furore over the way this tragedy has been dealt with, PSD leader Rui Rio let drop on Thursday that a search on the car’s number-plate revealed the vehicle wasn’t even registered…

“How is it possible that a car that is in the service of the government is not registered?” He asked parliament.

The situation looks ‘even worse’ when one considers this unregistered car was transporting a minister in charge of road safety, he said.

It has already been established that the vehicle was going well over the legal speed-limit (click here). Witnesses have attested to this, cited by various newspapers –  though Mr Cabrita has still refused to clarify.

But now the question “how can a car be in the service of the government without being registered” has at least been answered – by the very newspaper that first reported on the dire situation of the victim’s family (click here).

“The top-of-the-range vehicle was apprehended about two years ago by order of Penafiel court after being caught on CCTV cameras delivering heroin to the head of a drug trafficking ring in Felgueiras”, writes Correio da Manhã.

“The drug trafficker – an ex-con from Guimarães who was arrested a year after leaving jail for the same crime – is now serving an eight-year prison sentence for aggravated trafficking in which he used the powerful BMW for his illicit activity.

“Even though he was convicted, the car was not considered ‘lost in favour of the State’ because it is involved in a judicial imbroglio: the vehicle was always used by the trafficker but it was registered in the name of a company that has his father-in-law as a shareholder…”

As such the company wants the vehicle back.

Appeals have taken their time through the court process, explains CM – and thus the traffickers’ family was “surprised” to discover the car they were trying to recover was actually in the service of the government.

Lawyer Pedro Miguel Carvalho has actually told the paper that the owners, as well as the jailed drug trafficker, are “furious”.

They all presumed the car was sitting, unused, in a police pound somewhere – not hairing around the country at high speed.

CM concedes that “aside from being apprehended”, the vehicle was potentially to be used to “guarantee payment of the roughly €100,000 that had been estimated as the money made on the trafficker’s sale of the heroin.

“The law allows for use (by the State) of apprehended vehicles. Cabrita signed the dispatch to use this one”, says the paper.

“If it is decided to return the car to its owner, the State will have to pay damages”.

CM adds that the drug trafficker’s family will be asking for clarification through the courts on how the car came to be used in the way that it was.

The father-in-law had received a letter to say the Government was ‘interested’ in using it, says CM, but he had no idea it was already being used.

Meanwhile, Mr Cabrita has doggedly refused calls for his resignation over the way this incident has played out, saying it is a matter for the prime minister to decide whether he should go or not.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com