The five suspects who have been held in preventive custody since last Tuesday are finally going home. Photomontage: SIC Notícias
The five suspects who have been held in preventive custody since last Tuesday are finally going home. Photomontage: SIC Notícias

Operation Influencer “no longer corruption probe”

All five suspects to go home after six nights in jail 

Operation Influencer is no longer ‘a corruption probe’. This is the ‘shock of the afternoon’: “the crime of corruption is not one the crimes imputed by the investigating judge against the five defendants”, writes SIC Notícias.

Not only that, they all get to go home, after six nights in preventive custody.

Says SIC: “Pre-trial detention, which was requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) for Diogo Lacerda Machado, António’s now ex-best friend, and Vítor Escária, the Prime Minister’s now ex-chief of staff, was not applied” to any of the defendants. 

Escária and Lacerda Machado are suspected of influence peddling and are prevented from leaving the country. Both must hand their passports into authorities within 24 hours, and Lacerda Machado has been ordered to post a bail bond of €150,000 within 15 days. According to SIC, Vítor Escária does not have to post any bail.

Start Campus the entity has been ordered to post a bail bond of €600,000 in 15 days, while CEO Afonso Salema and director/ lawyer Rui Oliveira Neves have both been bailed in their own recognizance. The duo are suspected of the offences of influence peddling and unduly offering an advantage, says SIC.

Nuno Mascarenhas, mayor of Sines, has been released on the lightest bail term (remaining living at his home address), and does not appear to have any likely charges hanging over him.

All defendants have to remain living at their home addresses, and are prohibited from making contact with each other, adds SIC, concluding its reports stressing: “The investigation into lithium, green hydrogen and Sines data centre deals may involve the crimes of malfeasance, active and passive corruption of a political office holder and influence peddling”.


Expresso explains how much has changed, since the orginal arrests last Tuesday:

“At the weekend, the Public Prosecutor’s Office had proposed to the investigating judge that Diogo Lacerda Machado and Vítor Escária, the two main defendants in Operation Influencer, be remanded in custody.

Prosecutor João Paulo Centeno had also requested heavy bail measures for the other three defendants in custody.

“The most serious was for Start Campus, which has already started building the Data Centre in Sines. The prosecutor from the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCAIP) had asked the investigating judge to apply a €19 million bail bond as a way of guaranteeing that “it will not disturb the inquiry or continue its criminal activity”. The idea is that the bail will be called if any of these conditions are violated.

“For the company’s CEO, Afonso Salema, the Public Prosecutor’s Office had requested that he pay a bond of €200,000, that he be prohibited from travelling abroad and from contacting the other defendants.

“With regard to the company’s number two, Rui Oliveira Neves, the prosecutor asked for the same measures, but lowered the bail to €100,000”.

The paper added that “if the prosecutor gets what he requests, Nuno Mascarenhas, the mayor of Sines, should have his mandate suspended and be banned from entering the town hall”.

“The Public Prosecutor feared that Lacerda Machado might flee to Angola and Guinea”, said the paper.

Thus, on paper, it is looking as if the public prosecutor has been ‘thwarted’ Commentators have stressed however that this episode has been solely focused on the Sines Data Center project. ND