Sócrates’ remains behind bars as new defendant named in Operation Marquês

Beleaguered former prime minister José Sócrates left Évora jail briefly on Monday after three months behind bars. He was driven to DIAP, Lisbon’s department of penal investigation, to answer questions relating to his violation of Portugal’s secrecy laws.

Over 30 PSP agents were involved in the exercise which saw Sócrates delivered back to the confines of cell number 44 for a renewed three months of preventive custody. His appeal, lodged weeks ago, is expected to be heard sometime next week, but according to media sources, the chances of judges ‘freeing’ him on bail remain slim.

Meantime, a number of new defendants have been named in the ongoing Operation Marquês investigation centring on tax fraud and corruption on a vast scale.

The most high-profile of these is Sócrates’ former boss at Octapharma pharmaceutical company, Paulo Lalanda Castro.

Castro is understood to have signed contracts with the former Socialist leader which saw the latter earning €25,000 a month. These “millionaire earnings” coincided with the time Sócrates claims he was having to borrow money from his friend and fellow defendant Carlos Santos Silva, explain media sources.

Investigators are described as “convinced” that one of the contracts was ‘false’ and awarded in a scheme to compensate Sócrates for favours organised between Octapharma and the construction company, Lena – where Santos Silva had a minority shareholding

Castro was thus formally given ‘arguido’ status on February 12, after having been heard by prosecutor Rosário Teixeira for over eight hours.

Throughout the evidence – which he gave of his own free will – Octapharma’s administrator maintained that all his business dealings with Sócrates were legal and above board.

The end result, however, is that he is now cited for money-laundering and tax fraud, and must report regularly to police and remain living at his home address.

As fellow defendant Carlos Santos Silva has also seen his order for preventive custody extended, Sócrates continues to receive visitors almost daily at Évora, although their declarations of his innocence are now not so forthcoming. Indeed, the last three visitors have refused to offer journalists waiting outside the jail any comments at all.

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