Carlos Alexandre – Portugal’s so-called “superjudge” in charge of multiple investigations into institutional corruption – had an unusual mission this summer which took him to the Cape Verdean island of Santiago.
According to local paper A Nação, the embassy there is overseeing a visa scam that is turning a blind eye to illegal immigration into Europe in exchange for huge quantities of local currency.
In some cases, people have been paying 500,000 escudos (similar in value to the euro) for a visa.
It is “nothing new”, says A Nação, but at a time when Europe is awash with immigrants, it is clearly worrying enough for Portugal to take a stand.
Alexandre flew to the island in July in the company of three PJ inspectors, and a public ministry prosecutor.
A number of houses and properties were searched, interviews recorded, documents seized and a case file opened for further investigation.
According to TSF radio, “at issue are the crimes of passive corruption and the aiding of illegal immigration”.
For the time being, Cape Verde’s authorities are described as “in total silence”.
The focus of investigations has been on the CCV – the Centro Comum de Vistos (Visa Centre) – “coordinated and run by the Portuguese Embassy in Cidade da Praia”, Cape Verde’s capital.
Público took up the story this week, explaining that the fraud involves a tortuous process of “long queues, delays in being attended, lack of information and the refusal of visas for no justifiable reason”.
Genuine applicants are thus “forced into the hands of a criminal network that has arisen from the alleged collaboration between Portuguese embassy staff and the CCV”, says the paper, stressing that Cape Verde sources suggests the network falsifies documents which see people not only travelling to Portugal, but beyond to other countries within Europe.
As Público concludes, the press reports indicate the whole process is a cover for people-trafficking.