New ‘football freebie’ controversy, this time allegedly involving rates waiver

Tabloid Correio da Manhã is calling it “the email scandal”, suggesting Portugal’s finance minister Mário Centeno may have helped the sons of Benfica boss Luís Filipe Vieira with a rates waiver they wanted (in order to sell a building) in return for receiving two free tickets to watch the Benfica versus Porto game in April last year.

Why this ‘scandal’ has appeared now is unclear, but it pre-empts Centeno’s uptake of the Eurogroup presidency (by four days).

Certainly CM’s story is being ‘hotly refuted’ by the finance ministry which has issued a statement to the effect that has “no intervention in granting rates’ exemptions” – which in this case should have been fairly straightforward, it adds, given that urban buildings subject to rehabilitation automatically qualify for five-year rates’ exemptions.

The statement does not explain the jubilant email cited by CM, in which one of Vieira ‘juniors’ allegedly informs his father: “Dad, we are all singing here!!!! Without your push we wouldn’t have got there. Big kiss”.

Nor does it really shed light on why a government minister so highly paid would actually need to ask for tickets in the first place.

According to Lusa, the reason lay more in “questions of safety”: Centeno didn’t want ‘any old ticket’, he wanted two places in the presidential box as these would offer him security commensurate with his VIP status.

Quizzed on the ‘scandal’, prime minister António Costa said over the weekend that he can’t see anything controversial in Centeno requesting tickets, just as he didn’t see anything untoward in various secretaries of state and MPs receiving free trips to football games during the 2016 Euro (click here).

These latter jollies later forced nearly all concerned to resign, and led to the drawing up of a new code of government conduct.

CM nonetheless claims that PJ police are investigating the situation – an affirmation that the finance ministry has not refuted.

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