Joaquim Pinto Moreira (left) and Miguel Reis (right)
Two of the men caught up in Vortex, former mayor of Espinho Joaquim Pinto Moreira (left) and Miguel Reis (right). Reis is being held in police cells, pending a bail hearing. Pinto Moreira appears not yet even to have been charged.

Suspect MP refuses to clarify whether he will stay in parliamentary posts

Joaquim Pinto Moreira says his conscience is “tranquil”

PSD member of parliament Joaquim Pinto Moreira, one of the various targets of house searches as part of Operation Vortex yesterday, has declined to say this far whether he intends to remain as deputy chairman of the parliamentary bench and, perhaps more significantly, chairman of the commission for constitutional revision.

When questioned by journalists at the end of a meeting of coordinators of this eventual commission, Pinto Moreira referred all clarifications to a statement he issued on Tuesday – “which did not allude to these political issues”, explains Lusa.

He reiterated that he was available to immediately waive his parliamentary immunity if requested –  but said he did not know if the request had been made to parliament or even if he has been charged.

Lusa’s report today said Pinto Moreira “only said ‘good morning’ to several questions from journalists” about whether he intended to keep the posts he occupies (…) and whether this weakens his position, or even that of his party, in any way. 

Yesterday, Pinto Moreira actually accused the current Socialist mayor of Espinho – held in preventive custody pending a bail hearing (see below) – of “irresponsibly and inappropriately” trying to deflect attention away from himself in an investigation that “certainly” does not have him (Pinto Moreira) at its epicentre.

Using the stock phrase every politician and public offical uses when involved in any kind of questionable legal position, Pinto Moreira said his “conscience is tranquil“.

WHAT IS VORTEX ABOUT?

At a point in the political day-to-day where scandal has been coming thick and fast for weeks, Vortex follows one of the ‘more habitual’ contours of ‘alleged municipal crime’.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã describes the story, so far, this way:

José Costa, responsible for Urbanism at Espinho town council, was the link between businessman Francisco Pessegueiro and serving mayors” (meaning, Pinto Moreira pre-2022, and Miguel Reis post).

“According to Porto PJ, the Espinho investor (Pessegueiro) bribed everything and everyone for years. Joaquim Pinto Moreira, the former mayor, and the current vice-president of the PSD parliamentary group, and Miguel Reis, who is currently leading the Espinho executive, are marked” (meaning under suspicion). “But only the latter (Miguel Reis) has been (arrested and) held in preventive custody, because most of the suspicions fall on him.

“At stake are various licensing issues. From the construction of apartment blocks on the coastline to alterations of the PDM (municipal development plan) with a view to the construction of a hotel.

“In this latter case, alterations which changed an industrial area into an area for potential construction were made on the basis of ‘public and strategic interest’.

“For the PJ, really what powered the legalisation of these developments was money, namely through the payment of elevated bribes.

“There are alterations to the PDM detected in 2021, when Pinto Moreira was mayor; and in March, 2022, during the Socialist mandate,” says the paper.

Yesterday, Miguel Reis, José Costa and Francisco Pessegueiro were all rounded-up and held in police cells pending a hearing before a magistrate.

Two other men, one described as a construction company boss, the other an architect were also arrested and detained.

The five are suspected of the practice of active and passive corruption, prevarication, abuse of powers, and the trafficking of influences.

It is possible the men will come up for bail hearings this afternoon.

Media sources have sought to link Joaquim Pinto Moreira with PSD leader Luís Montenegro (in a negative way), suggesting that during his time as mayor Pinto Moreira hired Montenegro’s legal firm without recourse to public tender. It remains to be seen if any ‘dirt sticks’, but clearly various sources are looking extremely hard for it.

Luís Montenegro meantime has said he has absolutely nothing to do with this investigation.

Joaquim José Pinto Moreira was elected as a member of parliament for the first time last year, in the legislative elections in January. He was recently nominated by the PSD to chair the Eventual Constitutional Revision Commission, which took office on earlier this month.

Pinto Moreira was one of Montenegro’s main supporters in the latter’s rise to the PSD leadership, adds Lusa. The two men have a friendship that goes back many years.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com

ENDS