PJ raids clearly link Sócrates investigation with probe into Golden Visa fraud

PJ police investigations into the labyrinthine intrigues of multiple corruption investigations involving government figures have now flagged up clear crossovers between the Sócrates investigation (Operation Marquês) and that into the fast-tracking-for-favours of Golden Visas (Operation Labyrinth).

The news comes in today’s edition of Correio da Manhã which has been leading the field with exclusives on both investigations since November last year.

Intriguingly, both ‘scandals’ came to the fore in the same month.

As he faced days of questioning before being remanded in custody in Évora jail, former prime minister José Sócrates was grilled on conversations he is understood to have had with one of the key Golden Visa suspects, businessman Jaime Couto Alves.

Alves was described in the Portuguese press at the time as having “connections with the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Octopharma” understood to have made millions of euros worth of business during Sócrates’ years in power.

Now, another Octopharma link has transpired, this time implicating secretary of state for Fiscal Affairs Paulo Núncio – the politician who only just wriggled out of hot water over the so-called VIP tax list.

Police phone taps are understood to have picked up a call to Núncio’s office requesting IVA tax exemption for a company in cahoots with the Libyan Minstry of Health and run by the boss of Octopharma, Paulo Lalanda de Castro, and Sócrates long-term friend Carlos Silva Santos Silva.

Both are already defendants in Operation Marquês – with Santos Silva awaiting formal charges in jail where he has been since November.

According to reports now emerging in the national press, their London-based company Intelligent Life Solutions appears to have been a “ghost” set up to organise the flying into Portugal of war casualties then treated under a protocol signed with the state-run Hospital de Guimarães.

It was a “person responsible” for Intelligent Life Solutions that is the one understood to have called Núncio’s office, asking for a fiscal pardon over a “transaction between the company and the Libyan ministry of health”, writes CM.

As the Central Department of Investigation and Penal Action grapples with these multiple lines of inquiry, seemingly closing in on a huge number of names in the public eye, Portugal’s prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho – travelling the country in vote-catching mode ahead of looming elections – has been characteristically enigmatic in his reaction.

“For me this has all come as a surprise,” he told reporters during a visit to the Ovibeja agricultural fair. “But a surprise that is entirely normal. The PJ and Public Ministry intervene with autonomy and it is normal that these institutions should carry out their functions, just as we carry out ours, with all tranquillity”.

Far from tranquil raids up and down country
Tranquillity was certainly not a quality that came to mind yesterday as anti-corruption squads raided 34 homes and government offices up and down the country.

Starting as early as 7am, police started knocking on the doors of private homes of government employees connected not only to the ministries of finance and fiscal affairs, but also to border-control and immigration agency SEF.

Today the chances of the Attorney General’s office deciding at last to question former Interior Minister Miguel Macedo seem increasingly likely, reports CM.

Macedo resigned in the wake of the Golden Visa scandal and has twice requested for his ‘parliamentary immunity’ to be lifted so that he can make a statement on the affair, but until now this has not been requested.

Last week Radio Renascença reported that Macedo is increasingly fed up at seeing his “good name and honour” dragged through the mud and is looking forward to a chance to set the record straight.

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