Portugal identified in ‘tentacular Spanish fire cartel’

Portugal has been ‘identified’ in an investigation into corruption over contracts awarded for the hiring out of planes for fire-fighting purposes.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo has revealed that what it calls “a fire cartel” has been “paying bribes to politicians and officials since 1999 to guarantee contracts at inflated prices”.

The story, followed up by Correio da Manhã, explains that “the Portuguese State spent €3.8 million in contracts with the firm suspected of leading the so-called fire cartel”.

Avialsa “created an international scheme to manipulate the prices of contracts for the supply of combat aircraft equipped to fight forest fires”, says the paper – stressing that in 2012, EMA – the State’s civil air fleet dismantled in 2014 – celebrated two contracts worth millions of euros with Avialsa.

There could be more, adds CM, as “the cartel included various other companies that came together under another name to candidate for various contracts without raising suspicions”.

Nevertheless, Avialsa’s boss Vicente Huerta is now facing trial for fraud as the full extent of his company’s tentacular modus operandi is painstakingly unpicked.

CM quotes El Mundo as revealing that Avialsa “also had its tentacles in Italy”.

Operations in Portugal appear to have involved “a coordinator of influences” – someone who could guarantee that the highest prices possible were paid for fire-fighting plane cover.

The inference is that names could emerge during Huerta’s trial.

CM adds that “just between Spain, Italy and Portugal the fraud reaches €150 million, but for the time being, arrests have only been made in Spain”.

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