Portugal’s “financial Ronaldo” doesn’t know if €10 billion transferred offshore implies tax losses

Considering he was riding high in Brussels yesterday – dubbed the “Ronaldo of Ecofin” (Europe’s council for financial affairs) – it is remarkable to learn that Portugal’s finance minister Mário Centeno “doesn’t know” if the €10 billion that slipped out of the country as a result of an IT glitch means that Portugal lost potential tax revenue.

When most people would be querying ‘why else would €10 billion be transferred out of the country without first being declared to the relevant authorities’, Centeno appeared much keener to move on and talk about other matters.

As national tabloid Correio da Manhã remarks, “it was a full day”.

First, he was given his new ‘financial Ronaldo’ status by none other than German counterpart Wolfgang Schauble – the man who has repeatedly and volubly doubted Portugal’s financial strategy since the fall of the centre-right government (click here), and then he ‘assumed the presidency of Ecofin”.

Using the occasion to further inflate his soundbites, Centeno told Reuters that the Portuguese economy “could grow by more than 3% in the second three month period of 2017”.

But regarding that missing €10 billion, he was surprisingly vague – volunteering simply that it was an IT error as much as a political error, but that he didn’t know “if there exists a correlation between the political error and the technical error”.

For a blooming financial Ronaldo, it was an example of pretty nifty footwork.

The “correlation” however is due to be given a great deal of attention next month, when member of the European Parliament’s PANA commission are due to question Centeno and a long list of other key figures as it looks into allegations thrown up by the Panama Papers scandal (click here).

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