SEF corruption case comes to court in Lisbon

A CASE involving a ring which illicitly legalised hundreds of immigrants by infiltrating the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), the office for foreign citizens and border control, was to begin at the Boa Hora court in Lisbon this week.

The 21 defendants include a lawyer, three policemen based at the SEF, a SEF employee, a doctor and various foreigners. Charges include corruption, facilitating illegal immigration and criminal association.

The ring, led by a Portuguese lawyer, concentrated its scheme inside the SEF, but was dismantled in 2002 by the SEF itself in a clean up operation. During its activity, the group allowed hundreds of illegal immigrants to receive authorisation to remain in the country, the majority of which were Arabs.

A loophole, created by the 2001 alteration to the law regulating the legalisation of foreign nationals, which introduced the right to request ‘autorização de permanência’ (authorisation to remain), caused the number of applications for legalisation to live in Portugal to go through the roof, thereby creating a ‘business’ opportunity for the group.