Operation Perfect Storm: 73 already charged

Investigations continue into former secretary of State whose case is ‘separate’

Portugal’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) has charged 73 defendants in Operation Perfect Storm, the case related to the awarding of works by the State’s Directorate-General for National Defence Resources (DGRDN).

Among defendants is former DGRDN director Alberto Coelho, who faces accusations of passive corruption, money laundering, embezzlement and document forgery.

Not on the charge sheet is Marco Capitão Ferreira – the former secretary of State for defence who resigned recently once he was cited in ongoing investigations.

Explain reports, the case against Marco Capitão Ferreira is being considered ‘separately’, and is still under investigation.

State news agency Lusa describes the indictment relating to Perfect Storm as calling for Alberto Coelho to be ordered to pay the State more than €86,000 “which correspond to what (prosecutors) consider to have been (his) ill-gotten gains”.

Also accused is Paulo Morais Branco, former financial director of DGRDN. He faces accusations of various offences of passive corruption, money laundering and document forgery. Says Lusa, public prosecutors consider Morais Branco should be repaying the State €415,000 (if found guilty).

Similar accusations face Francisco Marques, former director of infrastructure and heritage services, “who is also being asked to pay almost €272,000”, says Lusa.

Diário de Notícias adds that aside from these three men, another four people working for the ministry of defence stand accused, plus 36 businesspeople and their families, and 30 companies.

SIC Notícias meantime has given a run-down on Perfect Storm so far:

“Last year, a mega operation by the PJ and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) led to searches at the premises of the Directorate-General for National Defence Resources, “as part of investigations into acts carried out between 2018 and 2021”.

“The searches were related to the “Perfect Storm” operation, which involves several senior officials from the National Defence sector and investigates active and passive corruption, embezzlement, economic participation in business, abuse of power and money laundering, as well as illicit acts related to contracts awarded.

“At stake is (renovation) work on the former Belém Military Hospital in Lisbon, which remains closed (…) In 2020, €750,000 were approved for work on the building, which slipped to €3.2 million euros”.

The period under investigation corresponds to when João Gomes Cravinho was Minister of Defence.

As to the investigations into the role of Marco Capitão Ferreira, SIC explains that “when Gomes Cravinho held the Defence portfolio, he allegedly approved a renegotiation of the contract for the maintenance of EH-101 helicopters without the guarantee of the Court of Auditors.

“The agreement ended in 2018 and João Gomes Cravinho asked for renegotiation soon after it ended and three months later, decided to cancel the deal for no apparent reason.

“All this led to Marco Capitão Ferreira’s phantom consultancy over a non-existent contract, in which he received €61,500 in just five days. He is therefore suspected of offences of corruption and economic participation in business”.

This far, minister Cravinho – currently in charge of Foreign Affairs – has not been cited as any kind of suspect in investigations, albeit several commentators have suggested that his position in government is untenable.

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