Funchal will be buzzing with the news of these searches today
Funchal will be buzzing with the news of these searches today

Searches underway throughout country over suspicions of corruption in Madeira – PSD mayor arrested

Police operation ‘targeting’ PSD mayor Pedro Calado and region’s president Miguel Albuquerque

Breaking news this morning was that 10 inspectors of the PJ judicial police were conducting searches in Funchal Town Hall, in Madeira, over suspicions of corruption. (Update: news has moved on; PSD mayor Pedro Calado has been arrested along with at least one businessman, reports Observador online*. Madeira’s regional president Miguel Albuquerque also cited as official suspect).

Staff in the building were being refused access to computers as the police operation is said to be targeting both the PSD Mayor of Funchal, Pedro Calado, and Albuquerque, also PSD.

A statement issued by the Funchal local authority refers to it “collaborating with the investigation underway” and giving “all information requested in a spirit of good cooperation”.

But the ‘back story’ being given by reporters at the scene involves the possible link between Pedro Calado (apparently tipped to take Miguel Albuquerque’s place as PSD regional leader when Albuquerque’s mandate comes to an end) and local building contractor AFA – the premises of which are also being searched this morning, adds SIC Notícias.

AFA is described as the “largest building group in Madeira” and “at the centre” of this case.

There are suspicions, says SIC’s reporter in Madeira, that Pedro Calado “benefitted the company”.

As for the focus on Miguel Albuquerque – president of Madeira’s regional government since 2015, and previously Mayor of Funchal – this is said to be due to the sale of a property (Quinta do Arco) in 2017 to a property fund which later rented it out to the Pestana Group “at the same time as the renewal of the concession to the ‘Zona Franca of Madeira’ (Free Trade Zone) to the same group – the ‘Zona Franca’ being a form of tax haven.

According to CNN Portugal, there are in fact over 100 people involved in this morning’s searches (PJ, Public prosecutors, etc.) ongoing in multiple locations. CNN suggests 50.

Lusa has since confirmed, the searches are going on throughout the country – as many as 100 of them on the island of Madeira alone.

“At issue are three investigations that include suspicions of corruption and other crimes committed by senior public office holders and politicians in Madeira”, esquerda.net online has explained.

In other words, it is not only Miguel Albuquerque and Pedro Calado who are in authorities’ headlights. “The Judiciary’s searches are also taking place at the Palace of the Regional Government of Madeira and at the offices of some regional secretariats”.

As all media outlets admit, the suspicions surrounding Miguel Albuquerque are not new.

Albuquerque is suspected of having a stake in the fund to which he sold Quinta do Arco (better known as Quinta das Rosas) and the €3.5 million paid is suspected of having been ‘in return’ for the direct award of the Madeira ‘Zona Franca’ to Pestana, “a process that was overseen by Pedro Calado”.

In 2021, DCIAP (the department of criminal investigation and penal action) of Madeira searched the home of Mr Albuquerque, but he was not charged.

“As president of the regional government, Albuquerque enjoys immunity”, adds esquerda.net.

CNN has added that Pedro Calado – in addition to his involvement in the ‘Zona Franca’ award to Pestana – is indeed being investigated over suspicions of a corruptive pact with the AFA group, which owns the Savoy hotels.

As for likely charges, these have been outlined as corruption, abuse of power, economic participation in business, prevarication, etc.

So far, there appear to have been two arrests. It is unclear how many people have been made official suspects.

Commentators already discussing this ‘bombshell’ have stressed that for the PSD party today’s news is every bit as devastating as Operation Influencer has been for the PS party (which is still managing to hold on to the popular vote, ahead of looming legislative elections).

Further updates: three arrested on suspicion of active and passive corruption, economic participation in business, prevarication, abuse of power and trafficking of influences, police confirm, without revealing identities