Portugal’s immigration department in new “sofa test” sex scandal

Following on from the embarrassment of the Golden Visa corruption furore, Portugal’s immigration service SEF is back in the news today with a sex scandal involving what has been loosely dubbed the “sofa test”.

Female visa hopefuls are understood to have been forced to have sex with a “high ranking official” in return for their entry papers.

The official, still in service, has been transferred to duties at Lisbon’s Portela airport while an internal inquiry gets underway within SEF.

The border agency’s press office has confirmed that the investigation is being directed by the Public Ministry, reveals national tabloid Correio da Manhã.

The news, broken by CM, centres on a 53-year-old SEF employee whose job description included issuing residency visas to immigrants.

The man had been flagged for sexual harassment previously, explains the paper . In fact there were three complaints against him – one from a fellow female inspector. But they were all archived.

According to CM, the “sofa test” was something fellow workers had long suspected their colleague of, but “it was suspicions over his collaboration in a human trafficking network involving Chinese women brought in for prostitution that lead to the investigation”, writes CM.

Whether these women were brought in for prostitution in Portugal, or whether they were then taken elsewhere in Europe is not explained.

For now, the bottom line is that an investigation is ongoing, and the high-ranking official is working at the capital’s airport – a move, CM adds, that has enraged colleagues, as he is actually now earning more than he was when based at SEF’s HQ in Avenida António Augusto de Aguiar.

Meantime, SEF’s union has also confirmed that the man has asked for legal assistance in any future case that may be mounted against him.

This is just the latest blow to the State’s immigration department which has yet to see the so-called Golden Visa scandal – here dubbed Operation Labyrinth – get to court.

Labyrinth has this far gathered 11 official suspects (arguidos), including former SEF director Manuel Jarmela Palos.

One of those believed to have been involved in a network of corruption, money laundering and fraud is still in preventive custody (António Figueiredo, former director of IRN, the notary institute), while three others (Maria Antónia Anes, former justice secretary, and two businessmen Jaime Couto and Zhu Xiaodong) remain under house arrest with electronic bracelets.

[email protected]