Novo Banco has decided to ‘advance with an internal audit’ into the conduct of directors and former directors in the wake of all the revelations emerging from Operation Red Card – the investigation that saw Benfica boss Luís Filipe Vieira, his son, a leading Benfica shareholder and a sports promoter arrested last week (click here).
The Public Ministry case against the four men – particularly when it comes to evidence amassed on Mr Vieira – has highlighted “a privileged relationship” with former Novo Banco director Vítor Fernandes which prosecutors believe helped Mr Vieira side-step millions in personal guarantees on debts.
Mr Fernandes’ name is in the running to head-up Portugal’s ‘Development Bank’ – the bank designed to manage the billions in EU funds destined to arrive over the next six years – thus opposition parties are calling for an urgent re-think (click here).
A source for Novo Banco has told Lusa the objective of the audit will be “to try and assess internally” what actually happened, and to “evaluate the conduct of banking directors” in the context of everything that is being printed about Operation Red Card.
As reports recall, Novo Banco was one of the targets of Public Ministry/ Tax authority focus last Wednesday when Mr Vieira and the other three ‘official suspects’ were arrested.
Various departments were involved, says Lusa, and “some banking employees” were specifically targeted.
The investigation this far is accusing Mr Vieira of abuse of confidence, qualified fraud, document falsification, money laundering, fiscal fraud and abuse of information.
The Public Ministry believes that via a company (Imosteps), Mr Vieira caused losses to Novo Banco of over €45 million that were then compensated by the Resolution Fund.
Prosecutors’ understanding is that the convoluted plan involved Mr Vieira selling Imosteps for just one euro to the Resolution Fund.
Reports today describe Mr Vieira having been confronted with ‘three years’ of wire tap evidence’ in the four-plus hours that he answered questions on Saturday.
Sports online Tribuna Expresso says the suspended president of Benfica ‘admitted everything’ but insists that nothing he has done – with regard to allegations over dealings that affected the State, Novo Banco or indeed Benfica – can be considered a crime.
Leader writers however are having a field day with what is coming out.
Armadno Esteves Pereira of Correio da Manhã writes today: “If this is a sample of the sale of credits at Novo Banco, there are reasons to suspect they are earning fortunes from our disgrace”.
By ‘our disgrace’ he means the billions in taxpayers’ money that have been ‘bailing out’ Novo Banco from the State-owned Resolution Fund (which gets its money from the people).
Thus the necessity for Novo Banco to look as if it is ‘doing something’.
And as this extraordinary case continues to fill column inches, Tribuna Expresso claims that over a million euros in cash was found in the offices of ‘The Chicken King’ business mogul José António dos Santos during Wednesday’s searches.
€110,000 was found in his desk drawer, while “the rest of the money was distributed in various bags and cases, including a ‘Pingo Doce bag’ with €200,000 in it.
José António dos Santos is equally suspected of qualified fraud, document falsification, money laundering, fiscal fraud and abuse of information. His bail surety however has been set at one million euros less than Mr Vieira’s, who has the next three weeks to find €3 million.