… but still no explanations in other new case, involving PM’s secretary of State
Latest news in the multiple scandals enveloping the PS Socialist party in Portugal is that former mayor of Montalegre Orlando Alves remains behind bars, following his arrest last week on multiple suspicions of corruption and favouritism over the years, while his former ‘right hand’ and the municipality’s chief of Public Works have been given their ‘get out of jail’ cards, on condition of bail sureties.
Reports previously stressed the fact that public prosecutors were calling for preventive custody for all three defendants.
But according to tabloid Correio da Manhã, former deputy mayor David Teixeira “decided to talk.
“He asked to talk to the judge yesterday morning when the questioning (of all three) had finished and judge Pedro Miguel Vieira was due to make his mind up on bail conditions.
The decision came “in time”, says the paper.
David Teixeira “accused Orlando Alves”, saying that he “had always acted according to (Alves’) instructions.
“The judge freed him, on a bail surety of €100,000 while the two-term mayor went to the jail alongside Porto’s PJ (Judicial Police HQ)”.
Judge Vieira also stipulated various ‘conditions’ to his decisions. In the case of David Teixeira, he cannot return to the borough of Montalegre; he cannot talk to any of the other (two) defendants, or others involved in the case. Exceptions include his wife, mother and daughter, says CM, “even though the PJ suspect all of them were used as fronts to hide the profits of business deals realised”.
In the case of the jailed former mayor (both men renounced their positions following their arrests last Thursday), he too cannot talk to anyone involved in the case, with the exception of his wife, children and daughters-in-law and son-in-law – “all of them” nonetheless “suspected of having been used to hide criminal proceeds”.
The chief of municipal works at Montalegre has not up till now been named in any of the reports. He was freed on a bail surety of €50,000. Nothing has been said about whether he has renounced his title, or whether he is returning to work as normal.
This latest investigation – dubbed Operation Alchemy – is all the more galling as it is said to involve favouritism with public money to the tune of around €20 million.
It broke in a week of shock revelations – including the still unexplained story of how the former mayor of Caminha, now a secretary of State working alongside prime minister António Costa, wrote a €300,000 cheque for advance rent on a building that does not exist – and to a company described as essentially coming from nowhere.
Critics have raised their hands into the air, wondering how long the PS party, ergo the government, can go on enduring allegation after allegation. The last few months have been spattered with stories of perceived incompatibilities, yet the official mantra is ‘nothing to see here, guv. We all have enormous confidence in everyone involved’.
And that is what Mr Costa has said about his secretary of State. He has refused to answer all direct questions on the matter, instead saying that he has “every confidence” in the man who only recently entered his ‘inner circle’, indeed he has every confidence in every member of his government.
“I have a principle since the last seven years. I do not comment on cases of Justice, and I will not be opening an exception”, Mr Costa told journalists clamouring for some kind of response.
It is what it is – which is what has been inflaming parties of the opposition, and indeed the press. How many more ‘scandals’ will this government be able to absorb without seemingly batting an eyelid?
In terms of ‘popularity’, the situation is not ‘great’: a recent opinion poll has put the PSD – the second strongest party in parliament – very closely behind the PS now in voting intentions, when a few months ago it was still lagging some way behind.