Three former judges begin trial for corruption
Rui Rangel and former wife Fátima Galante are two of the former judges on trial in this potentially very explosive case. Photo: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa

Three former judges begin trial for corruption

Operation Lex opens at Supreme Court of Justice

The trial of 17 defendants indicted in Operation Lex starts today at the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ).

Among the accused are three former judges – Rui Rangel (expelled by the Supreme Judicial Council), Fátima Galante (Rangel’s ex-wife and compulsorily retired by the judges’ management and disciplinary body) and Luís Vaz das Neves (former president of the Lisbon Court of Appeal, now retired) – as well as former Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira, vice-president Fernando Tavares and businessman José Veiga.

At issue are crimes of passive and active corruption, undue receipt of advantage, abuse of power, usurpation of functions, falsification of documents, tax fraud and money laundering.

This will be an explosive case for the fact that it seems to highlight what the judicial profession insists ‘does not exist’: senior judges whose favours can be bought.

The Public Prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Justice has accused Luís Vaz das Neves of passive corruption for unlawful acts and abuse of power.

According to the indictment, Vaz das Neves violated his functional duties of impartiality by ordering the manual distribution of cases, which allowed Rui Rangel to obtain illegitimate economic benefits.

Rangel has been charged with the crimes of passive corruption for unlawful acts, abuse of power, undue receipt of advantage, usurpation of functions, tax fraud and document forgery.

Fátima Galante has been accused of passive corruption for an illicit act in coauthorship with her ex-husband and of abuse of power also with Rui Rangel, and Bruna Garcia do Amaral, Rangel’s ex-girlfriend, as well as six crimes of tax fraud and of money laundering.

As for Luís Filipe Vieira, the prosecution accuses him of committing a crime of undue receipt of advantage in collaboration with Fernando Tavares and the lawyer Jorge Rodrigues Barroso.

The investigation into Operation Lex, which was carried out by deputy attorney general at the Supreme Court of Justice Maria José Morgado (now retired) focused on the activity carried out by Rui Rangel, Fátima Galante and Luis Vaz das Neves – who, according to the indictment, used their positions at the Lisbon Court of Appeal to obtain undue advantages for themselves or others, which they concealed.

According to a note from the Attorney General’s office, in order to guarantee payment of advantages obtained by the accused – an amount exceeding €1.5 million euros – seizure of assets “was requested at the time”.

Once the investigation got underway, the Supreme Judicial Council decided to expel Rui Rangel from the magistracy and put Fátima Galante into compulsory retirement. Luís Vaz das Neves retired in 2016 and was replaced as president of the Lisbon Court of Appeal by Orlando Nascimento, who has also since stepped down.

Operation Lex case first made its appearance on January 30, 2018, when five people were detained, and more than 30 searches were conducted and originated from a certificate extracted from the Operation Rota do Atlântico case, which involved football businessman José Veiga, suspected of crimes of corruption in international trade, money laundering, tax fraud and influence peddling.

Source: LUSA