Portugal’s president says criminalising illicit enrichment is ‘long overdue’

Portugal’s president Marcelo has ‘reaffirmed the necessity’ for the government to move forwards with creating a crime to punish those in public office who become ‘unjustifiably rich’.

The Marquês investigation ‘bombshell’ earlier this month (click here) has ignited a veritable firestorm.

Only last week judges were reported to be ‘renewing efforts’ to try and rein in the image that Portugal is filled with public servants on the take (click here) – and now President Marcelo has put wind under their wings saying the sooner parliament “advances with new legislation the better”.

He told journalists in Lisbon today: “Parliament has the decisive word in this material. If you want to refer to the issue of the so-called crime of illicit enrichment my position is well known. Ten years ago, long before I was president, I said we needed to prevent this crime – call it whatever you want to call it”.

Simply ‘respecting the Constitution’ would be enough to punish holders of public office whose wealth cannot be justified by the money they earn in the exercise of that office, he said.

There are “lots of ways and several proposals”, he said. It’s time to ‘find the right measure to achieve the objective. If not it will simply be postponed ‘yet again’ and “there will continue to be that dream, that desire, that frustration permanently pursuing us”.

The head of State is a master of diplomacy. The truth is the government has been putting off creating this ‘law’ for years.

But after the Marquês ‘instructory decision’ accepted former prime minister José Sócrates had been corrupted, but ruled that the judicial time limits had expired, Marcelo believes “the country is entering a good moment in which responsible politicians are giving signs that they want to value justice”.

Bloco de Esquerda coordinator Catarina Martins isn’t a great aficionado of diplomacy. Her party, along with PCP communists, is formulating a proposal to create a crime for illicit enrichment and she gave her message her way: “It’s clear that Portugal had a prime minister (in Mr Sócrates) who lived in a way that isn’t explained by his earnings, nor the assets he declared. It is difficult to find anything more serious than this. This is a problem that should be dealt with, and one of the ways of dealing with it is clearly to make illicit or unjustifiable enrichment a crime”.

Left wingers’ proposals for this crime will involve jail terms of up to five years for those found guilty holders of public and/ or political office.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com