Sócrates’ investigation “almost ready” to file charges

Operation Marquês, the tentacular investigation into alleged corruption centering on former Socialist prime minister José Sócrates is reported today to be “almost ready” to file charges.

Considering it has been running for more than four years, defence lawyers have already denounced the news as “ridiculous”.

Controversial attorney João Araújo – whose many outbursts include telling one female journalist to ‘take another bath’ as she smelt bad (click here) – has repeatedly claimed that all legal time limits have already been exceeded, maintaining his client should have no case to answer.

But the Attorney General has consistently given Marquês more time, earlier this week extending the last ‘limit’ by yet another three months to November 20.

Says tabloid Correio da Manhã, which has led the field in Marquês ‘news’ and exclusives, this judicial year – officially starting tomorrow September 1 – will be ‘marked’ not only by this case, but by that of Pedro Dias, also due to start in November.

Dias was the man described as “the monster of Aguiar da Beira” after a bloody shootout in which three people lost their lives, one of them a policeman.

Dias then went ‘on the run’, eluding the country’s police forces for weeks, before giving himself up in a bizarre staged press interview, in which he professed his innocence (click here).

Other highlights of this judicial year are threats of industrial action by both judges and court staff.

But back to Marquês. According to CM, DCIAP – the central department of investigation and penal action – already has 1000-word “accusation” written in which it will be setting out suspicions that Sócrates “received bribes of €32.8 million: €29 million from Group Espírito Santo, €2.8 million from Group Lena and a million euros for the business of Vale do Lobo, in the Algarve (recently in the news for its €500 million debt, click here).

CM claims that Ricardo Salgado – an“official suspect” in multiple corruption investigations – is “seen as the principal corruptor of Sócrates”, who allegedly received all his rewards through two ‘front men’ – fellow ‘suspects’ Carlos Santos Silva and cousin, resident in Angola, José Paulo Pinto.

Says CM, the only part of the investigation still to conclude relates to “the ruinous business deals of PT” – the national communications firm that ended up being sold to French operators Altice.

Efforts will be on establishing the “involvement” (for that read alleged collusion) of former PT bigwigs Zeinal Bava and Henrique Granadeiro.

The paper suggests that the Public Ministry “suspects that between 2007 and 2010, Bava and Granadeiro will have received around €49 million from Group Espírito Santo in exchange for decisions that will have benefitted the interests of GES, at the time led by Ricardo Salgado”.

It will be a ‘massive’ case if charges are indeed filed by November 20, but there has always been the ‘feeling’ that Marquês is simply too big and too all-encompassing to tackle, with many pundits convinced that the case will end up being archived.

For now, Marquês has 31 official suspects, 22 ‘single people’ and nine businesses.

Earlier this week, Zeinal Bava was ‘back in the news’ over purportedly “legalising” €11.5 million through one of Portugal’s ‘fiscal pardons’, RERT III.

Breaking the story, negocios online said “two shareholders in Vale do Lobo who are official suspects in Operation Marquês also adhered to the fiscal pardon” in which non-declared income from overseas was transferred into Portugal.

Those two suspects were, says Negocios, Portuguese-Angolan Hélder Bataglia and former CTT boss Rui Horta e Costa.

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