PS ‘scandals’: PM’s secretary of State breaks silence

PS ‘scandals’: PM’s secretary of State breaks silence

Miguel Alves – official suspect in two investigations – is “not a crook or a fool”

After days of pregnant silences, the prime minister’s secretary of State Miguel Alves has finally spoken to the press – just around the time Observador revealed he is an official suspect in not one but two investigations into alleged economic financial crimes arising from Operations Ether and Web (both of which involve a number of northern municipalities).

Miguel Alves stresses he is “not a bandit, or a fool”. Indeed, his interview with Jornal de Notícias/ TSF Rádio went very much on the attack, suggesting the rough ride he has been having through the press is due to ‘prejudice’ because he doesn’t come from the ‘court of Lisbon’. 

“I admit that most Portuguese people don’t know me”, he told his interviewers today. “I have a public life that has been accountable over all these years, but the general public may not know a mayor who comes from the North, from Caminha. This means that this narrative of suspicion has created an anathema and probably 90% of people think that I am a fool or a bandit – and I am neither a bandit nor a fool.”

He is nonetheless an official suspect in two economic-financial criminal investigations, and the subject of another, stresses Observador. 

“He is suspected of alleged malfeasance and other alleged offences as Mayor of Caminha”. 

But the government “is not bothered”, says the online. 

Questioned by Observador, the prime minister’s office has said “the matter in question is more than known” and that Miguel Alves “calmly awaits developments with full confidence in the work of justice”.

To be fair, this is the almost verbatim answer given by public servants whenever they find themselves embroiled in any kind of controversy carrying the whiff of illegality.

Observador adds that it believes the office of the prime minister “tried to create confusion between the two cases that are the basis of the inquiries that cite Miguel Alves, guaranteeing that the “subject matter (…) was amply reported in the press and involves dozens of council officials”.

This is true in the case of Operation Ether, but in the case of Operation Web, this has actually been the first time journalists were made aware of Miguel Alves’ ‘involvement’.

Says Observador, what its reporters found out was that “António Costa’s right hand man is accused of alleged practice of the crime of prevarication for allegedly having favoured a company of Manuela Couto (wife of Joaquim Couto) in the awarding of several contracts.

Observador then goes into the ins and outs of the allegations, while Miguel Alves has since ‘broken his silence’ to essentially blame the brouhaha on ‘prejudice’ against a former mayor riding into the limelight in Lisbon from the north.

“There is a certain prejudice towards those who are in office outside that natural court, outside that set of people more associated with the media bubble, and there is, also, a certain prejudice towards Caminha”, he said. “As if Caminha did not deserve a cross-border exhibition centre, as if Caminha did not have enough prestige to have a science and technology centre.”

Miguel Alves also attacked Público, which published the first news story on the whole ‘dubious advance rent payment’ for a building that didn’t exist and to a company that came ‘out of the blue’, suggesting the “suspicion, which was launched through a first news story, does not point out a single illegality or irregularity, but only a journalist’s feeling that there is doubtful behaviour on the part of the Mayor of Caminha and the Municipal Assembly…”

In other words, Mr Costa’s secretary of State feels he has been hard done by, and has a clear conscience: the various investigations will reveal no illegalities have been committed, and we can all relax – very much as we have all been instructed to stand down over the various other perceived cases of incompatibilities and curious business dealings involving PS Socialists in various quarters of influence.

As the dust has settled on Mr Alves’ interview however, it is being increasingly pointed out that he neither explained himself (or the suspicions surrounding him) – and by keeping him at his post, the prime minister is going back on previous policies of ensuring ‘arguidos’ in criminal cases are not kept on in government.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com