Sócrates “freed” as defence claims “there may never be any charges”

After all the allegations over multi-million euro corruption and fraud on a vast scale, jailed former Socialist prime minister José Sócrates has been “freed”. Over 40 weeks behind bars in Évora jail, and under house arrest with a police guard since the beginning of September, Sócrates is today able to get up and do more or less anything he pleases – other than contact any of his fellow “arguidos” (official defendants) or leave the country.

While national tabloid Correio da Manhã – one of Sócrates’ most ardent critics – suggests prosecutors are looking at further cases where the former Socialist leader may be found to have committed crimes, his colourful defence lawyer João Araújo has said he “doubts there will ever an accusation”, in other words, formal charges.

Talking on TVI last night, Araújo said the prosecutors now faced “a serious problem”.

“If there were facts, they would have told us by now”, he explained. “We would know about them. All they have is fabricated suspicions, invented and thrown into the air”.

National media explains that Araújo and his defence team will now have access to the Public Ministry’s case against them, and will be reading everything avidly from Monday morning.
“We are sick but not tired of waiting for this moment”, added Araújo, reiterating that he expects “nothing. Just legal mumbo-jumbo”.

Also “freed” from their own terms of house arrest is Sócrates’ long term friend Carlos Santos e Silva and former Socialist minister Armando Vara, who has had to put up a €300,000 bail surety and is elsewhere appealing a five-year jail sentence for the trafficking of influences.

Reporting on the latest developments in this long-running case, Diário da Notícias claims the Public Ministry is far from pleased with the decision to reveal its case to the defence, and will be lodging an appeal at the Constitutional Court.

Meantime CM reveals that formal charges are now “just dependant on some financial information from Switzerland and other countries over the business of Vale do Lobo” (the Algarve development alleged to be at the heart of the inquiry).

Prosecutors also “need to hear businessman Hélder Bataglia, one of the owners of the Algarve development, over the origin of €12 million sent, through the bank accounts of Joaquim Barroca, then vice- president of (construction) group Lena, to Switzerland”, adds the paper, concluding: “Barroca has assured the investigation that the request behind the transaction was made by Santos Silva, alleging the money was Sócrates’”.

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