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“Various millions” allegedly syphoned from European Funds for wine

PJ police swooped on the offices of Portugal’s innovation agency (ANI) yesterday (Wednesday) in a new investigation into fraud, abuse of power and corruption.

According to reports, the syphoning of European Funds destined for a wine project that goes back to 2006 is at issue.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã suggests “various millions of euros are involved”, although for the time being exact amounts are being kept under wraps.

Yesterday’s searches conducted in Lisbon and Porto have seen 30 people cited as “arguidos” (official suspects).

Observador explains that beyond the suspicion of “one crime of diverting EU community funds destined for innovation”, there is also the suspicion of “crimes of criminal association, fraud in obtaining subsidies, fiscal fraud, qualified fraud, falsification of documents and abuse of power”.

The news website stresses that ANI refutes the allegations, stressing that they refer to “facts that allegedly occurred in the past”.

Nonetheless, the investigation is being led by the PJ’s anti-corruption unit in collaboration with DCIAP, the department of criminal investigation.

As Observador explains, ANI is run by two government bodies: the Ministry of the Economy through IAPMEI, the institute supporting small and medium sized businesses and innovation, and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education.

ANI’s function is to manage and accompany QREN projects – that is initiatives considered of strategic national reference.

CM appears to have further insight into the case, saying it centres on two ANI staff members.

The community funds at issue are FEDER and FSE, says CM – both of which were jointly financed by the State budget.

Along with the two ANI personnel, other “entities” which appear to have “benefitted from the funds, including service businesses”, make up the rest of the list of arguidos.

This far, no arrests have been made, says CM, adding that the tax authority’s investigative branch was also involved in yesterday’s searches.

A statement from ANI was expected on Wednesday but at time of writing had still not been forthcoming.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com