Portugal’s ‘bête noir’ former prime minister to hear on Friday if corruption accusation stands

The contortions of Portugal justice have seen to it that it has taken nearly seven years since former Socialist prime minister José Sócrates was arrested on suspicions of corruption for a judge to assess whether the enormously complex case which puts him in the centre of a web of nefarious intrigue is valid.

As newspapers which have spent the last seven years ‘revealing all’ have acknowledged, whatever Judge Ivo Rosa decides on Friday (click here), the fallout will be massive.

That of course is not to say Friday will be ‘decisive’. That would be too much to hope for. Whatever comes, Portugal’s Operation Marquês is set to drag on for years. (Some have quipped they’ll be dead before it’s over).

The way Socialist maverick Ana Gomes sees it, if Judge Rosa decides the corruption charges should fall “it will be a discredibilisation of justice – devastating for the country, a destruction of democracy; no-one will believe in anything anymore…”

But if the judge – said to be ‘notorious’ for dismissing Public Ministry ‘evidence’ – decides the charges should stand, it will “rock confidence in the political system even more”, warns Socialist grandee Manuel Alegre.

According Expresso: it’s a situation that will blow a hole in the system either way. And one result is certain: “Sócrates will not remain quiet”.

Already in the throes of suing the State for “the poor functioning of the administration of Portuguese justice”, the former PM is understood to have quite a few ‘friends’ still within the Socialist party. 

These last years in ‘dishonourable exile’ have not seen him desist from writing articles, most of them highly critical of his party’s policies and decision-making.

If Judge Rosa ‘drops’ the ‘most serious’ charges of corruption against Mr Sócrates  (which those-in-the- know seem to think he might) then the long-term consequences for the PS Socialists could be much more  devastating than if he didn’t.

“It cannot be excluded that (Sócrates) won’t ‘assume new political projects’ which could very easily focus on a sense of vengeance”, an apparently ‘close inside source’ has warned.

But if the corruption charges fall, will the rest of the case implode?

That’s the million-euro question. Right from the start in 2014 establishment figures could be heard saying ‘he’ll never face a trial…’ Yet according to endless column inches, José Sócrates amassed as much as €34 million facilitating business deals and interests across the board during his years in power. 

The 31 crimes against the former PM include allegations that he received bribes, laundered money, falsified documents and evaded taxes. 

Expresso nonetheless admits  there is no direct “proof” in any of the three main crimes of corruption that face him: no incriminatory piece of paper, no wire tap. And the other crimes (of qualified fiscal fraud, money-laundering, document falsification) essentially hinge on the acceptance of the three major crimes. In other words, if the main crimes ‘fall’, the others could too.

Operation Marquês has 27 other defendants who could also find that if Sócrates’ main charges are dropped, consequently theirs would collapse as well.

But according to Expresso, former BES banker Ricardo Salgado is on thinner ground as are the Public Ministry discoveries in some of the businesses involved.

All eyes therefore will be on the largest courtroom at Lisbon’s Campus de Justiça on Friday April 9 at 2.30pm.

For once Covid-19 is likely to take a backseat to the evening news reporting.

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