Judicial year opens with blistering attack on ‘political power’

Seven years jail: former mayor of killer-fire municipality “surprised” by condemnation

Valdemar Alves, the former mayor of Pedrógão Grande – the epicentre of death during 2017’s wildfires – has received a seven year jail sentence over the house rebuilding programme that followed the tragedy.

Explain reports, the politician, who is also facing trial over responsibilities for the fires that led to the deaths of 66 people, was found guilty of 13 crimes of prevarication of public office, and 13 crimes of aggravated fraud, “some of which in the attempted form”.

Leiria magistrates have further ordered him to pay, along with 12 other defendants, civil damages requested by the Revita Fund (€109,383.30), the Portuguese Misericórdia Union/ Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (€185,233.33) and Portuguese Red Cross (€111,579,01).

Mr Alves was not the only defendant to be condemned to jail. Former council official Bruno Gomes received a six year term. Both men have said they will be appealing – meaning neither will be going to jail anytime soon.

Mr Alves described the conviction as a “surprise” and “very harsh”, telling reporters there was still “a long road” ahead in terms of legal options for him.

The magistrates read out their decisions this morning saying the defendants (all the others received suspended jail terms, below five years) had managed to undermine everyone’s confidence in the word ‘solidarity’.

They have to understand there are consequences for accessing funds that should have gone to others.

Mr Alves told reporters that he will be conferring with his lawyer, but for the time being has “no words”.

The background to this scandal, can be read here

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

ENDS