For someone who has had to put up €3 million in cash to secure his own bail in an investigation that continues to wreak financial havoc both in Portugal and beyond, former BES boss Ricardo Salgado looked supremely in control when he appeared before MPs for the second time to answer questions on the collapse of the financial empire he used to run.
Taking to the spotlight with his customary aplomb, he launched into an attack on the way the Bank of Portugal had handled the affair this far, criticising its ‘drip-by-drip’ release to the press of information on the forensic audit as “inadmissible”.
Outrageous too was the way he was not informed of the findings of the forensic audit made by Deloitte (see:https://www.portugalresident.com/salgado-faces-%E2%82%AC10-million-in-fines-as-attorney-general-studies-bes-forensic-audit) and instead subjected to what he called “summary judgement”.
Very similar to the stance he took when he first appeared before them, Salgado told MPs he would struggle to restore his honour and that of his family “throughout the years of life that are left” to him.
Quoting the legendary Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, he said: “Making an apology is worse than not being right. I am here to defend my actions, and the best way of defending the bank’s clients and investors is to prove that I am right.”
He added that it was this proof that he hoped would triumph when he is (eventually) judged by a court in a case that many say could see him saddled with millions in fines, not to mention a stiff jail term.
It was the kind of performance which anyone studying drama would have delighted in. Theatrical pauses to raise a bottle of water while fix MPs with a look over his glasses. The unhurried pouring and then drinking from a glass as he referred to a prepared ‘script’.
It was all the consummate performance of a man convinced he did no wrong – and he maintained it for 10 hours in the hot seat.
The fact that Deloitte’s long-awaited audit is understood to have confirmed “ruinous management” on the part of Salgado, with at least 30 instances where he actively disobeyed orders from the Bank of Portugal, was somehow expertly vanished.
To briefly summarise Salgado’s answers, the fallen ‘dono-disso-tudo’ (the-boss-of-all-of-this) said at one point: “I do not have the power that many say I have in their attempts to throw responsibility on to me.”
There was no deviation of funds for the benefit of himself and his family to Angola, he stressed. Indeed, he has not received “a centavo” (a cent) more than he has declared to the Revenue since 2012.
He has no money offshore, he stressed. He did in the past, but no longer.
Vast financial holes that appeared in Espírito Santo companies were nothing more than “normal financial fluctuations” between the group.
He had never ordered accountants to “hide funds”, and any falsification of accounts “resulted from the crisis and disorganisation” but in no way suggested any intentional wrong-doing.
Salgado continued to blame the Bank of Portugal for “creating instability” which caused BES’ downfall though he agreed that his bank had “dragged its feet too much” when problems began. “We should have restructured the group before 2007,” he said.
Bloco de Esquerda MP Maria Mortágua compared Salgado to the conductor on the Titanic who insisted his band keep on playing as the ship went down. The jibe was swatted aside. “The Portuguese State was bankrupt and BES helped the State, much as it helped various groups that were bankrupt,” Salgado replied – adding that former finance minister Vítor Gaspar had twice called him to thank him “for the support BES was giving the country”.
“The only thing we asked was reciprocal treatment,” he added.
This was one of the last hearings to come before the commission that is now due to end mid-week next week.
The last interview scheduled is a ‘second-time-round’ also, this time with finance minister Maria Luís Albuquerque.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]
Photo: Former BES boss Ricardo Salgado during an inquiry into the BES management and the Espírito Santo Group in Parliament on March 19.
Photo by: MARIO CRUZ/LUSA