The Rendeiro mansion at Quinta Patino, near Cascais

Stolen BPP art works: PJ ups ante

Mansion home of Maria de Jesus Rendeiro targeted in flurry of new searches

The mansion home of Maria de Jesus Rendeiro – wife of ‘fugitive from Portuguese justice’ and former banker João Rendeiro – was one of eight premises targeted in a flurry of new searches for art works that went mysteriously missing under her trusteeship.

Mrs Rendeiro is already an official suspect in the Operation “D’Arte Asas III”, and she has in the past pleaded ignorance over the whereabouts of pieces that had somehow ‘gone astray’.

Some were found to have been sold at auction; others rudimentarily forged; one was discovered in a private home.

In all cases, PJ police believe Mrs Rendeiro knew perfectly well what had happened to the pieces, explains Lusa news agency today.

The latest searches – five of homes, two of ‘non-homes’ (warehouses?) and one of a lawyer’s office – took place in the areas of Lisbon, Aveiro and Porto.

One of the locations was the mansion where the Rendeiro couple used to live in splendid luxury near Cascais.

Since Mr Rendeiro fled (to be later captured and imprisoned in South Africa, pending extradition), Mrs Rendeiro has been held under house arrest as an official suspect in the missing artworks inquiry.

Says Expresso, this latest probe is focused on crimes of money-laundering and embezzlement/ bad conduct (the translation of the word ‘descaminho’ has various interpretations, but it basically means ‘getting round the rules’ in place, which were that the art works should have stayed where they were. They were impounded on the basis that they could have served to help compensate victims of Mr Rendeiro’s crimes).

Today’s searches were ordered following those realised last November “with a view at collecting complementary evidence, as well as recovering the product of crime”, writes Expresso.

The PJ led a major operation on Mrs Rendeiro’s home in February when all items of value, from art works to furniture, even cutlery, were seized, as part of the lien on assets pertaining to the BPP case.

It was during this operation that the PJ found the ‘missing’ image of Our Lady with Child in the home of the Rendeiro couple’s chauffeur, Florêncio de Almeida. In a warehouse rented by Mrs Rendeiro, the PJ also recovered another ‘missing piece’, a sculpture of a Venetian Moor.

As all these developments take place, Mr Rendeiro remains in Durban’s notorious Westville Prison, determined to challenge the Portuguese case for his extradition.

Here he already faces a number of jail terms.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com