Sócrates’ former environment minister “stupefied” by Vale do Lobo allegations

A former environment minister during José Sócrates’ years in power has told Expresso he is “stupefied” by allegations that the former Socialist leader delayed planning laws to benefit the Algarve’s de-luxe Vale do Lobo resort.

Francisco Nunes Correia guaranteed that Sócrates “never interfered with PROTAL” (the Algarve land plan) and that “technicians and jurists” will testify to this.

Ironically coming as Almargem environmental association publishes a contradictory statement citing the same developments and property deals – but suggesting they had all been manipulated to benefit big business – Expresso’s story maintains there was nothing sinister at all in the delay in the implementation of certain aspects of PROTAL.

It was simply that ‘extensions’ had to be made as it hadn’t been possible to “conclude proceedings in the determined time”.

Agreeing very much with environmentalists but using another standpoint, the paper alluded to the fact that Vale do Lobo III and other developments had been approved on the basis that they were considered “structuring” for tourism.

“Structuring” carried a price tag of “over €50 million”, jurist João Miranda told the paper.

While the nation has been spoon-fed scandal by many news outlets since Sócrates was jailed seven months ago, Expresso has attempted to shed some balance, saying all planning “prolongations” were “perfectly normal to safeguard technical work that had already been done”.

“A document like PROTAL is not something someone can suddenly alter”, Nunes Correia explained “indignantly”, said Expresso – which went on to quote Correia describing a situation in 2005 when a POOC (coastal plan) “pulled the plug on the construction of 11 homes in an area of risk in Vale do Lobo”.

Previous to the POOC, the building had been allowed, he explained.

And so the stories continue.

For now, Vale do Lobo’s CEO Diogo Gaspar Ferreira is one of eight “arguidos” (official suspects) in the long-running Operation Marquês investigation that many say may never result in any firm prosecutions.

Vale do Lobo’s administration has already pointed out to our offices that allegations in Correio da Manhã that Ferreira had received a payment of €2 million into his personal bank account by wealthy Dutchman Jeroen Van Dooren were completely false.

The “alleged account” to be credited was that of another Marquês defendant, Joaquim Barroca Rodrigues, president of the Lena construction company, we were told.

Last week, Expresso’s Micael Pereira wrote: “Jeroen can Dooren transferred €2 million to the account of Joaquim Barroca at UBS between January and April 2008. The number 102 on the list of Holland’s most rich revealed to Expresso that who asked him to make this transfer was the CEO of Vale do Lobo, António Gaspar Ferreira – who denies this.”

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