PJ swoops on suspected ‘water analysis’ scam

20 arrested following searches in north and centre of country

PJ police have announced the arrests of 20 people today following multiple searches of public and private entities, as part of an investigation into the falsification of analyses of water intended for human consumption.

“The Polícia Judiciária, through the Vila Real Criminal Investigation Department with the support of other PJ units, as part of an inquiry led by the Public Prosecutor’s Office – DIAP Regional do Porto, carried out 60 home and non-home searches, targeting various private individuals, companies and public entities located in different municipalities throughout Portugal, namely in Aveiro, Braga, Bragança, Coimbra, Guarda, Lisbon, Porto, Vila Real and Viseu,” said PJ statement.

Operation Gota D’água (Water Drop), as the investigation has been dubbed, “is about the fraudulent activity of a laboratory responsible for collecting and analysing water intended for human consumption, waste water, bathing water, swimming pools, catchments, streams, boreholes and wells, involving crimes of abuse of power, computer falsehood, aggravated document forgery, criminal association, prevarication, spreading disease and forging prescriptions“.

The 20 arrested – aged between 25 and 61 – have been described as “employees and managers of the laboratory, employees, managers and local elected officials of management entities and/or companies“. 

Says SIC, the laboratory in question “falsified all the sampling procedures and analyses relating to the control of water for human consumption contracted by management entities (municipal councils, intermunicipal entities and other entities in which that public service has been concessioned), in collusion with some of the employees, managers and local elected officials of those entities“.

The falsification of analyses also included “wastewater control”, namely “analyses carried out to assess compliance with discharge licences of Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) in various municipalities”.

With this fraudulent activity, the laboratory sought to “reduce costs”, jeopardising “the trust and reliability of the results of the analyses and, consequently, the quality of the water ingested daily by the communities”.

So far, no one is saying which laboratory has been the target of ‘Operation Gota d’Agua’, nor what kinds of risks the communities that have been ingesting water unfit for human consumption may have been runnning. It is not even clear what prompted this investigation.

The 20 arrested are to be presented before a magistrate who will decide bail measures.

Sources: LUSA/ SIC Notícias