Prosecutors home in on some of BESA’s missing millions as Public ministry “confesses incapacity” in tackling mega-cases

Tabloid Correio da Manhã today carries a detailed story pointing to the destination of at least some of BES Angola’s “missing millions” (click here) – but a text in Sábado over the weekend suggests very little may ever come of it for the simple fact that prosecutors “confess” they are incapable of tackling mega-cases involving suspicions of money-laundering and corruption on a vast scale.

The case outlined by CM – case nº 244/11 – is a clear example of how prosecutors have worked for over six years (since the collapse of BES) and still not reached a courtroom.

Case nº 244/ 11 predates the case on Grupo Espírito Santo, but involves many of the ‘well-known faces’: former BES head honcho Ricardo Salgado, his former ‘right hand man’ Amílcar Morais Pires , former BESA president Álvaro Sobrinho and BESA director Hélder Bataglia.

According to the Public Ministry “all these former bankers will have received around 337 million from BESA through societies that held credits with BESA”.

They are all ‘arguidos’ in case nº 244/ 11 – and CM is full of the alleged nefarious deeds they are suspected of, but the truth is that today’s story like so many others may never get to the crunch point (the point where the suspects are nailed to the allegations).

For the last six years all the arguidos have continued to ‘enjoy liberty’ even if this has been occasionally punctuated with large fines which much of the time go unpaid (click here).

And Sábado has explained why: the Lisbon district prosecutors office “has admitted to not having sufficient resources” to judge cases that since September 2014 have shown an accentuated tendency to involve “excessive procedural volume” and “special technicality”.

In other words, it is not enough to see authorities ‘crack down’ on alleged corruption in Portugal if the legal system isn’t equipped to follow through.

The gist of the Lisbon district prosecutors office annual report for 2019 is that it ‘can’t cope’.

Says Sábado, the conclusions are clear: “the response capacity of the Public Ministry is extremely conditioned by the lack of magistrates which tends to worsen – with no scope for resolution over the course of this year – which is also associated with the lack of officers of justice”.

The fact that the majority of Portugal’s ‘mega-cases’ come out of the capital is another disadvantage, as it sees them all piling up within the overwhelmed Lisbon district prosecutors office.

Add to this “IT limitations” and “exhaustion” of the judges on the Lisbon circuit and Sábado paints the picture of a perfect storm in which the corrupt will have the wind behind them.

It’s not by coincidence that the online ends its report on the lack of capacity within the Public Ministry by citing the “process of judicial liquidation of BES”, one of the “principal cases” weighing on the Lisbon district prosecutors office, with more than 600 volumes of evidence involving all kinds of attachments and appendices.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com