Operation Marquês: former Portuguese PM charged with 31 crimes to hear whether he must face trial

Over six years since he was arrested at Lisbon airport on suspicions of labyrinthine layers of corruption, former Portuguese prime minister José Sócrates is to hear whether he – and the 27 other defendants involved in ‘Operation Marquês’ – will be facing trial.

A decision on the mega case that incorporates convoluted financial scandals like BES/ GES and PT Telecom will be announced in the largest courtroom in Lisbon’s Campus de Justiça on April 9 at 2.30pm.

Judge Ivo Rosa has been in charge of this ‘instruction process’ of Marquês for the last two years.

His ‘decision’ is understood to be longer, in paper form, than the 4,000 pages of evidence – with 600 appended issues attached – originally delivered by the Public Ministry.

Talking to SIC television news last night, journalist Ricardo Costa said Judge Rosa is known for “sending a lot of things back to the Public Ministry”. He tends to be “much more in favour of the defence”, which in this case means José Sócrates and his fellow ‘arguidos’ who have consistently said they have no case to answer.

Marquês is a landmark case in so many aspects. Never before has a prime minister of Portugal been imprisoned, or charged with 31 crimes of corruption, tax fraud, document falsification and money-laundering.

April 9, says Ricardo Costa, will be an “important day for Portuguese justice, for politics and for Portuguese democracy”.

“One cannot anticipate what is at stake”, he said, although it is fair to imagine that Judge Rosa could certainly throw out some charges by dint of the fact that the case itself has become ‘top heavy’ (click here).

Once Judge Rosa’s decision has been announced, the only entity that can ‘appeal’ is the Public Ministry.

This is a long way from ‘the end of the road’ but it will be that ‘start’ of a new chapter.

Says SIC, the Public Ministry accusation – elaborated by seven prosecutors and composed of 11 volumes (5,036 pages), 14,084 segments of fact and 189 crimes – sustains that José Sócrates “received around €34 million between 2006 and 2015 (while he was prime minister) in return for favouring the interests of former banker Ricardo Salgado at GES and at PT (Portugal Telecom) as well as guaranteeing the concession of finance by State Bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos to the Vale do Lobo development in the Algarve, and for favouring business deals, namely outside the country, of Group Lena”.

Mr Sócrates spent the first months after his arrest in Évora prison, later being released to house arrest (click here) and finally being allowed back to comparative liberty.

He has announced that he means to sue the Portuguese State for damages of €50,000 over “the poor functioning of the administration of Portuguese justice” (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com