The accountant BES boss Ricardo Salgado claimed was “missing”, sang like the proverbial bird yesterday for the parliamentary inquiry set up to establish the “truth of the facts” behind the €3.6 billion banking scandal.
Francisco Machado da Cruz’s testimony went ahead behind closed doors, but “various sources” have since given Portuguese newspapers the low-down.
Suffice it to say, the man in charge of Espírito Santo International’s accounts is said to have fudged yearly reports “out of loyalty” to his boss Salgado.
“It was not my idea to hide the debts”, he is understood to have told the inquiry.
“It was Ricardo Salgado’s, in 2008”.
At the time, the shortfall for the Espírito Santo Group was said to be in the region of €180 million.
The fudging was meant to have been for that year only, Machado da Cruz explained.
“Unfortunately, it continued in 2009, 2010, 2011 until 2013”, he told the inquiry.
He also claimed that he produced double accounts during those years: doctored ones for the official records, and correct ones for Ricardo Salgado.
By the time KPMG auditors arrived in 2013 to check the situation of the financial empire, Machado da Cruz said GES was already in front of a “massive weapon of destruction”.
Now living with his daughter, the accountant claimed he had lived the last few years in torment, “very very sorry” for what he had done – but that Salgado had assured him that “everything would work out” and he believed him because Salgado was “the most powerful man in Portugal”.
As Público explained, the hearing went ahead behind closed doors on Machado da Cruz’s request “based on the alleged defence of secret of justice”.
Seventeen MPs make up the inquiry into the massive banking scandal. Set up in October, it was given 120 days to complete its brief – a task few imagine will be possible without a substantial time extension.