News that former PJ inspector Paulo Pereira Cristóvão has been arrested for armed robbery – suspected of being part of a gang which raided people’s homes, posing as policemen in order to steal gold and valuables – has raised more questions than it answers.
Cristóvão, author of the “Star of Madeleine” – a book into the three-year-old’s disappearance that urged readers to “think” – is a former president of the association of missing children.
He is also a former vice-president of Sporting Football Club – where in 2012 his name was dragged into the mud because of a case known as “Cardinal” in which Cristóvão was cited for seven crimes involving qualified fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, IT intrusion, “illegitimate access” and aggravated malicious accusation.
Professing his innocence throughout, Cristóvão was finally given a suspended 15-month ban from sporting activity (October 2014) and fined €3,000.
At the time, he told Público the decision had been “rushed” as there were civil actions awaiting hearing that could see the proof against him overturned.
Now, four months on, comes the new ‘bombshell’ that Cristóvão – who left the PJ shortly after Madeleine went missing to head the APCD, Portugal’s association for missing children – was allegedly involved in a 13-strong gang that raided the homes of wealthy people, purportedly gaining access by pretending to be policemen.
According to Público, Cristóvão – a firm friend of PJ inspector Gonçalo Amaral, whose own book on Madeleine’s disappearance sparked a €1.2 million defamation trial, lodged by the child’s parents – was responsible for marking out victims for the gang and “furnishing information”.
Press reports say the 45-year-old was arrested in Lisbon this morning by the national anti-terrorism unit and that he is due to appear before super-judge Carlos Alexandre – the same judge in charge of the convoluted investigation into alleged dirty dealings of former prime minister José Sócrates.
As Público continues, Cristóvão is under suspicion of having been involved in “armed robbery, kidnappings and criminal association” – in a number of assaults understood to have taken place in the Greater Lisbon/Setúbal areas.
What is puzzling those who know his background is whether this latest arrest has anything to do with timing.
The decision on whether or not his long-term friend Amaral defamed Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann in his book “The Truth of the Lie” is due any day now, after five years of legal to-ing and fro-ing – and the judge’s “reading of the proven facts” which showed strong likelihood that Amaral would not be found guilty of defamation, certainly not to any degree that could possibly require the paying of over a million euros in damages.
Thus, for now, all eyes are on the upshot of Cristóvão’s interrogation tomorrow at the hands of super-judge Carlos Alexandre.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]