Before being António Costa's top aide, Vítor Escária was a key member of José Sócrates' inner circle. Image: Lusa

PM’s former chief of staff pushes back against bail measures

Dubs case that brought down Portugal’s government “story based on suppositions”

With a country facing elections on the basis of an investigation that started falling apart within six days, it is no surprise that the ‘main culprits’ highlighted have started pushing back.

Last week, lawyers for the prime minister’s ‘best friend’, Diogo Lacerda Machado, requested revocation of his bail measures (prohibiting trips out of the country, and posting €150,000 as a surety), and today lawyers for the prime minister’s former chief of staff Vítor Escária are doing the same.

Both argue that there is no evidence of crimes that justify the severity of bail measures: both men should be able to await the outcome of the investigation in the same manner as their co-defendants, under the lightest bail measures available (or in the case of the mayor of Sines, no bail measures at all).

Vítor Escária’s lawyer also highlights perceived failings in the case: “neither the office of public prosecutions nor the investigating magistrate were able to pinpoint the time and manner in which the alleged influence peddling took place or to present any evidence to support the thesis of a corruptive pact, such as a possible advantage for Escária”, writes Lusa.

“According to the defence, a meeting that took place on December 22, 2022 with Diogo Lacerda Machado, a consultant for Start Campus (a data centre at Sines that is at a major focus of the investigation) (…) and Afonso Salema, CEO of Start Campus, also does not serve to indicate the crime or that the alleged support for the project was illicit”. 

Defence counsel also highlights prosecutors’ “mistake in originally stating that this meeting took place at the headquarters of the governing Socialist Party (PS) and not at the official residence of the prime minister”.

Says Lusa, according to the submission, public prosecutors built “a story based on suppositions (…) outlining the thesis of a criminal pact that must have involved altruism because Escária did not ask for or accept anything”.

It is true that the appeal makes no reference to the more than €75,000 in cash found by authorities in Escária’s office – which was the overriding reason given by prime minister António Costa for his decision to resign… He apologised to the Portuguese people on air, saying he felt his trust had been “betrayed” by the fact of so much money being discovered, snaffled away in an office in his official residence.

It is also unclear when these appeals will be ‘heard’, as courts will be winding down this week for the festive season.

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