The United Nations has agreed to investigate a number of the recent paedophilia cases reported in Portugal after receiving documents from the Innocence in Danger association. According to the co-ordinator of this non-governmental organisation, Cláudia Neves, bundles of documents relating to paedophilia scandals, including examples of child abuse which are alleged to have taken place on the island of Madeira, have been sent to a United Nations working group.
However, when journalists from the Portuguese press contacted the Madeira Polícia Judiciária, a police spokesman responded that the police co-ordinator Vitor Alexandre, guaranteed that there was no record of any child sex crimes, organised networks or paedophile organisations on the island. This lack of knowledge has been echoed by the Island’s Attorney General, Orlando Ventura. On hearing these responses, Cláudia Neves is reported to have commented: “I’m sure once the United Nations start investigating, they will uncover a lot. They aren’t going to shut their eyes or turn their backs like our local authorities do.”
The IiD co-ordinator is convinced that one paedophile ring in particular, originally discovered in the 1990s and known as the ‘Thames network’, is still operating on Madeira and claims that she has received innumerable reports of organised holidays to the island, designed specifically for child abusers. With this in mind, Neves intends to visit the island in February in order to talk to some of the residents who have spoken about the situation and, she hopes, some of the children involved, despite considerable risk to her personal safety.
Neves claims that she has been threatened since contacting the United Nations and announcing her trip to the island. “I have had people telephoning my house, telling me to never set foot on Madeira again unless I have a bodyguard and telling me to stop my ‘silly statements’ because they are all false,” she explained.
Neves is also due to travel to the European Parliament to talk about the problem of paedophilia in Portugal next week. She revealed that she is particularly concerned about the number of 12 and 13-year-old girls who live on Madeira and who are sent out on ‘dates’ with older men. The relaxed attitude towards underage sex that reportedly prevails on the island has led some commentators to claim that the island is becoming a mini-Thailand and a paradise for paedophiles.
Breast beating is hypocrisy
Neves and the Innocence in Danger organisation have been warning about child abuse in Portugal for several years, but claim that the authorities have chosen to ignore the problem. “They have been warned often enough, but for reasons best known to themselves have remained silent,” a spokesman from the organisation commented.
The Innocence in Danger organisation hopes that by involving the United Nations in the country’s problems it will be able to move outside the closed world of Portugal’s elite and alert a wider audience to the country’s problems. “It is no good President Sampaio and parliament sounding off about the problem now and appearing to be knights in shining armour,” the spokesman said. “They, like the police, must have known about the widespread abuse of children in Portuguese institutions for years… Their recent acts of breast-beating are outright hypocrisy.”
Now Innocence in Danger is calling for changes to the way that child abuse complaints are handled by the police and to the government’s vetting procedures for people working with children, as, in many of the abuse cases reported, the accused already has a history of paedophile activity. Carlos Silvino, the children’s home worker who was arrested in the Casa Pia scandal, is a case in point.
The organisation has also suggested that an ombudsman should be appointed to oversee police procedure and to ensure that no pressure is applied to the investigators.