UPDATE: Ex-PJ accused of being “spy” for armed gang may end up sharing cell block with Sócrates

As the nation’s press focuses on the shock of yet another corruption scandal, bets now are on whether disgraced former cop Paulo Pereira Cristóvão will end up sharing a cell-block in Évora with disgraced former prime minister José Sócrates.

Cristóvão is today reported to be going before super judge Carlos Alexandre to answer detailed questions over his alleged involvement in a criminal network which centred on raiding the homes of wealthy businesspeople in and around Lisbon, posing as policemen.

According to reports, the targets were all picked after detailed “espionage” mounted by Pereira, in to how much in gold and valuables could expect to be found on their premises.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã claims that “businessmen, who as a result of their activity, could be targets of judicial searches”, did not doubt for a moment when men purporting to be police turned up on their doorsteps – particularly as in many occasions, these men actually wore standard police uniforms.

CM and other news sources stress that the investigation has taken months to gather the evidence that is expected to be put before Cristóvão at 2pm this afternoon.

The first major break came last summer when 12 men were rounded up by DCIAP, the department of penal investigation – accused of being responsible for a series of armed raids on luxury homes in the Greater Lisbon and Setúbal areas.
Among these men were three PSP police officers. As the men remain in preventive custody to answer varying charges, ranging from criminal association to qualified robbery, kidnap and possession of illegal weapons, the details of how their ring operated have gradually emerged.

Among others ‘fingered’ as being organisational within the network is Nuno Vieira – well-known to Cristóvão during his years as vice-president of Sporting Football Club.

Vieira is the leader of Sporting’s youth league “Juventude Leonina” and, according to reports, Cristóvão is suspected of having passed key information to Vieira which he then passed on to the rest of the group.

Cristóvão’s arrest by counter-terrorism police on Tuesday morning has sparked an out-pouring of shock, particularly from Sporting’s hierarchy.

Isabel Trigo Mira – considered the symbol of the club – described herself as “shocked and taken aback” by the arrest. “I never thought this could be possible,” she said.

But Cristóvão’s past is not squeaky-clean. Another criminal investigation forced him to step-down as vice-president of Sporting, and there are still aspects of that case due to go to trial next month.

Thus, bets are on as to whether the 45-year-old who even spent two years as president of the country’s association for missing children will be allowed home on bail today.

If he isn’t, the most likely jail is Évora (as this is reserved for the country’s security personnel and high-risk prisoners) – and that would make him a new ‘fellow inmate’ for Portugal’s most current VIP prisoner José Sócrates, still detained without charge suspected of corruption and malpractice to the tune of millions of euros.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]