Portuguese judge Pedro Lucas has brought an end to years of legal ‘ducking and dodging’ by ruling that former PSD MP and convicted BPN fraudster Duarte Lima must face trial here in Portugal for the murder of an elderly heiress in Brazil in 2009.
Lima is currently in jail serving three and a half years of a six year sentence delivered in 2014 (click here).
He spent five years appealing the sentence – to the point that his skill at remaining a free man saw satirist João Quadros publish a scathing piece on the state of Portuguese justice (click here).
But now that he is finally behind bars, authorities in Brazil have been pushing for the case they investigated – and appear to believe is watertight – to be heard on Portuguese soil.
The issue with Mr Lima’s murder charge is that up till now he has never agreed to go to Brazil to face trial, and there is no extradition agreement in place between the two countries.
Yet he is understood to have argued recently against the trial taking place in Portugal on the basis that it should be heard in Brazil, due to the difficulty otherwise of hearing witnesses.
Lisbon’s criminal court decided that he simply can’t have it both ways. If his arguments were accepted “he wouldn’t be tried in Brazil because he is in Portugal, and he wouldn’t be tried in Portugal because the case was investigated in Brazil…” It would lead to “absolute impunity”, ruled Judge Lucas.
Brazil’s casework arrived in Portugal last October and it now looks difficult for Mr Lima to dodge this trial for much longer.
Nonetheless Expresso says that “in principle” the decision by Judge Lucas is subject to appeal. So there may be more traction for delaying tactics.
Four years ago, media stories said Brazilian prosecutors “had no doubt” that Mr Lima murdered the former mistress of a decorated Portuguese industrialist by shooting her in the head and chest on an isolated dirt road after a dinner engagement.
The motive, they said, was to hold on to the €5.2 million she had entrusted in his care.
Since then however Portuguese judges have absolved him of the crime of ‘abuse of confidence’ in a case alleging that he did indeed misappropriate the millions Ms Ribeiro deposited in a Swiss bank account in his name.
Thus a little like the recent ‘decision’ in the Marquês corruption case (that now involves no corruption click here) it’s not clear what will happen next.