In an extraordinary outburst, shipping boss Mário Ferreira has warned the Euro MP acknowledged as Portugal’s strongest voice against corruption that there is nowhere she can hide.
Ana Gomes has suggested that “flagrant corruption” is behind the case of €70 million-worth of taxpayers money ploughed into the construction of a cruiseship that was then ‘sold off’ to one of Ferreira’s companies for just €8.7 million.
The tortuous story of the Atlântida, originally commissioned by the Azores government – along with another boat, the Anticiclone – is widely blamed for the collapse of the ENMC naval shipyards at Viana do Castelo in 2014.
Ferreira – who within eight months had sold the boat for double its knockdown purchase price – agrees that “serious mismanagement” was at play – but claims there is no mud on him or his company Douro Azul.
He sees the villains of the piece as “the government of the Azores, the administration of the shipyards and the (Socialist) government of the era”
“It is not a question of intimidation”, the man famed for becoming Portugal’s first ‘space tourist’ to sign up with Virgin Galactic told Rádio Renascença. “She (Gomes) should not play with us. This game will cost her dearly until she realises that she should watch her tongue”.
As reported earlier this week, Douro Azul is in the process of seeking to get Gomes’ parliamentary immunity lifted (click here) so that she can answers charges of calumny (lies).
If this doesn’t happen, Ferreira told the station, the company will keep after her.
“It could take three, four, five years for her to no longer be within the European Parliament”, he said. “Certainly, she knows these kind of crimes do not have limits. She will have to respond, and she will have to pay damages, certainly, to the companies that she’s accusing…”
But as Gomes has stressed, she has not actually said who she believes has been corrupt in this story, just that “it smells of corruption”, flagrant if not fragrant.
Her assertions regarding Douro Azul having “a lot to tell the authorities”, followed revelations in the media last year that PJ police were investigating Atlântida’s sale.
Indeed, Ferreira’s latest declarations could even be significant, she said, using a colloquial phrase which loosely translates as “if the shoe fits”.