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New evidence delays corruption charges against Sócrates

New evidence throwing up additional “questions for the authorities in UK, Switzerland and Angola” mean that charges in the long-running investigation into the alleged corruption of former prime minister José Sócrates have yet again been delayed.

Amadeu Guerra, the director of DCIAP – the central department of penal action and investigation – has granted public prosecutor Rosário Teixeira a further five-and-a-half month extension on the limits imposed on Operation Marquês.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã – the paper that has run more exposés on the case than any other – stresses that the new date, September 15, is still open-ended.

It could be that this too will be extended. In fact, the paper seems to think Marquês could only reach the point where it is ready to press charges “by the end of the year”.

Moves by Sócrates’ lawyers to get the whole case thrown out on the basis that time-limits have all expired seem to have led nowhere.

CM says the country’s “higher courts” have all agreed that, in this case at least, legal time limits are “merely approximate”. The only instance where they are seen to have been valid involved Sócrates’ months of imprisonment, both in Évora jail and under house arrest in Lisbon.

Thus, the former leader of the PS Socialist party remains “free” though unable to travel or contact fellow defendants as Marquês gets cracking with its new evidence.

CM claims additional names could swell the current list of 11 defendants, while new witnesses have also to be interviewed.

“It all seems ridiculous”, outspoken defence lawyer João Araújo – the same man who told one of CM’s journalist she “smelt bad and should take another bath” – has retorted, saying the prosecution are coming up with “time limit over time limit”.

But as CM explains, there are still many ‘gaps’ in the prosecution’s roadmap.

Portuguese-Angolan businessman Hélder Bataglia, the man dubbed “the corruptor of Vale do Lobo for allegedly paying €12 million to Sócrates to win vital planning permission” has still not been made an official defendant (largely because he is reported to want to cut a deal for exemption from prosecution), and the Public Ministry is also waiting on bank details from the UK and Switzerland, says the paper.

The bank details particularly are thought to be “fundamental” as CM claims they will show the complex web of roughly 23 million euros that investigators say were obtained through corruption.

Thus, for now, the wait continues, with Sócrates only cited for the crimes of active and passive corruption, money-laundering and qualified fiscal fraud, but charged with nothing.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com