Mário Ferreira's trip into space on Thurday will cost a reported €27.5 million... for 11 minutes

PRR: new ‘shock’ as media mogul’s investment group rejects €40 million

Pluris Investments refuses money to safeguard good name of Mário Ferreira

After all the fuss – including suspicions of tax fraud and money-laundering – Pluris Investments has decided to reject the €40 million in EC-backed PRR funding recently approved by Portugal’s Development Bank (Banco do Fomento), on the basis that to accept the money might not help the good name of principal shareholder Mário Ferreira.

To be fair, the good name of Mr Ferreira is already under a great deal of question – unlikely to change due to the ‘return’ of what would otherwise have been the largest single loan to any Portuguese company, or indeed group of companies, covered by the PRR (bazooka of EU post-Covid recovery and resilience funding).

Catarina Martins of Bloco de Esquerda – one of the critics Mr Ferreira has cited for what he sees as her “shameful actions” – has said if Pluris doesn’t need the money, why did the company candidate for it?

Pronouncing herself “delighted” by the news, Ms Martins is only one of the many people who remarked on the fact that Pluris Investments was being so favoured with PRR millions. But she perhaps went the furthest to show her scepticism – asking prime minister António Costa in parliament recently “what involvement” he had in the decision to bestow so much European recovery and resilience money on a company whose principal shareholder “is being investigated at a national and European level for money laundering and tax evasion”.

“Was the priority in terms of funding given because one of Pluris directors is a former advisor to Mr Costa?”

Not in the least, Mr Costa retorted (in very different words). Calling the question “insulting”, the PM said: “My intervention is zero. It was zero, as the honourable member of parliament knows”.

Fast forward now to this week, and Pluris’ decision to eschew the funding altogether and raise the money it needs on its own.

In a statement, the company reiterated the fact that the decision to award it what would have amounted to 52% of the €76.7 million for recapitalisation projects awarded so far was “totally legal” and complied with “all rules of transparency”.

Pluris “laments” that the loan was “transformed” into what it called “a sad media spectacle”, suggesting critics like Catarina Martins should have been more concerned about the €323 million at risk of NOT being used by Portuguese companies and therefore returned to Brussels.

Bizarrely, as the dust on all these developments settles, Mr Ferreira will be stepping into a rocket on Thursday, for an 11-minute ride into space. His ticket is understood to have cost €27.5 million.

The businessman has been on TVI (one of the stations in his empire) telling host Manuel Luís Goucha about how excited he is that the trip is finally happening (he booked his ticket years ago…)

Social media commentary naturally has been less effusive, with some querying how anyone could think of benefiting from European funding when they have €27.5 million to spend on 11 minutes of ‘fun’ (with a carbon footprint that does not bear thinking about…)

Said one commentator: “Is this a good example of the criterias of approval for European Funding (bazooka) for the development and economy recovery of this country?! In the end… this is Portugal”. 

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