Six years for Air Force mess corruption ‘mastermind’

A Major-General in the Air Force was handed a six-year jail term last Friday for being the mastermind of a massive food supply fraud.

For roughly five years from 2011-2016 Major-General Raul Milhais de Carvalho ran an elaborate scheme overcharging for food delivered to Air Force messes from north to south of the country.

It was, the court heard earlier this year, something ‘everyone was in on’ – and a way of feathering nests ahead of retirement (click here).

Losses to the State ran into well over €1.7 million – but the truth is no-one will ever know the true extent of the swindle as the amounts creamed off the top were in cash, and so largely untraceable.

Initial stories talked of ‘up to €10 million’ having been pocketed; the Public Ministry believes it could certainly reach €2.5 million, says Correio da Manhã.

As previous stories have explained, those involved on the take had a pact ‘not to show any outward signs of wealth’ that might raise suspicions.

But for one reason or other (this far unexplained) someone ‘snitched’ – and it has taken almost four years to reach the point where justice has finally been delivered.

The case is particularly notable for the worth judges put on whistleblower testimony. The two main whistleblowers – a captain and a major involved in the corruption – were both handed suspended sentences.

Major-General Milhais de Carvalho’s ‘right hand man’ Colonel Alcides Fernandes also received a six-year jail term while 11 defendants were ‘cleared’, two businessmen were handed four-year jail terms and the largest suppliers were fined between €112,000 and €42,000. They were also barred from celebrating any contracts with the State for the next four years.

The major-general and his right hand man were singled out by the judge for “not assuming the imputed facts and showing hostility and arrogance towards fellow co-defendants”.

Said Carlos do Paulo, the lawyer for ‘whistleblower’ major Rogério Martinho – who claimed the fraud had been going on for decades – the verdicts represent “an historic day for Justice. The court valued the genuine testimonies of co-defendants who even though they were accused of crimes, spoke the truth”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com