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Malpractice

‘The elected politician nowadays is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter’
(Ramalho Eanes, former President of Portugal)

More than 80% of the Portuguese are of the opinion that corruption – is an essential part of business. In the Eurobarometer inquiry, more than three-quarters of the population – who claim to have witnessed a case of corruption – admit not having reported it.

Last year the country dropped on the Corruption Index – published by Transparency International (TI) placing itself in 33rd place (of 180 countries) with 61 points, the lowest score ever. ‘Over the past 10 years, little to nothing has been done to fight corruption and the result is an expression of this drift’, explains the president of TI-Portugal Susana Coroado.
Since 2016, only four crimes of bribery to foreign agents – all involving Angolan companies – have been investigated and none has resulted in sanctions.

In September the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for the Combat of Corruption, forcing public entities and private companies to address endemic threats of mismanagement. Those who do not comply with the new obligations, risk being fined but those who confess corruption might be forgiven.

The judiciary on her part stressed the lack of transparency in the funding of political parties. ‘No serious strategy should leave out the administrations of municipality councils nor the financing of the campaigns of political parties’, Manuel Soares – president of the Judge’s Syndicate – stated on radio. ‘People who are financed when exercising public office favor the companies and entities that pay them.’

Up until now, the Constitutional Court has rejected laws against ‘illicit enrichment.’ But in the wake of Operation Marquês, the tide has turned.
The Association of Portuguese Judges is now aiming at ‘reinforcing transparency in the exercise of public functions, with criminal liability in the case of non-compliance and President Marcelo de Sousa wants the Government to move forward and punish those in public office who become ‘unjustifiably rich.’

A recent survey showed the deeply rooted distrust of the population as to how politicians are properly monitored for corruption and the capacity and reliability of Justice to investigate them. Portuguese consider the President the most reliable (65%) in the fight against corruption, followed by the Government (42%) and the courts (23%).

But there are also international concerns, in particular about money laundering. At the beginning of this year, the European Commission has opened legal procedures against Portugal for incorrectly implementing EU anti-money laundering rules into its national law.


The good news, however, is – also for Brussels – that the controversial Golden Visa program for foreign real estate investment in the coastal and metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto is coming to an end this year.


Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic público/sapo)






Marquês

‘No one does wrong willingly or knowingly’ (Socrates*- Greek philosopher)

On Friday the 9th of April, the Portuguese judge Ivo Rosa ordered ex-Prime Minister José Sócrates (2005-2011) to stand trial for money laundering and falsifying documents, dropping more serious charges of corruption against the former leader of the Socialist Party (PS).

The decision – being the latest twist in a nationwide soap called ‘Operation Marquês’ (marquis) – is gripping the country since the police arrested the ex-PM at Lisbon airport on the 21st of November 2014. Sócrates almost spent a year in preventive pretrial detention before his conditional release in late 2015.

Sócrates quit the party in 2018, accusing leading figures of backing accusations against him. The current center-left PM and socialist party leader António Costa – who served as a minister under Sócrates – has so far succeeded in distancing himself from the case.

Among the 31 charges brought against Sócrates, judge Rosa decided to move to trial on just three accounts of money laundering and three of document fraud, for which Socrates still risks ten years in prison.

Sócrates himself has always denied the allegations. ‘All the great lies of the Public Prosecution have fallen’, he told journalists after de court’s decision.
‘I feel the tranquility of the innocent and want compensation for everything.’

The Public Ministry immediately demanded the annulment of the controversial decision and nearly 200.000 Portuguese signed a petition, calling for the removal of judge Rosa from the magistrature because of ‘his partiality and judicial errors.’

The outcome raises serious questions about the judicial system, which sent a former PM to jail, but fails to collect sufficient proof – despite nearly seven years of investigation – on the most serious charges, involving 11 volumes (over 6000 pages) of arguments.

Operation Marquês– named after the PM’s former residence at the Marquês de Pombal square in Lisbon – also incriminates Ricardo Salgado, ex-CEO’s from the biggest bank at that time – the Espirito Santo bank (BES) – who was accused of 21 crimes.

Judge Rosa, however, ordered the ex-banker to stand trial on only 3 cases of breach of trust, dropping more serious allegations that Salgado had bribed Sócrates to lucrative deals involving the state-owned company Portugal Telecom. Both BES and Telecom collapsed in the wake of the eurozone crisis, leaving the Portuguese taxpayers with a multi-billion-euro debt.  

Current president Marcelo de Sousa said he hoped Operation Marquês will reach a ‘visible end in due time’ but even if Marquês goes forward as the Public Ministry intends and even if the 63-year-old José Socrates is found guilty – with all the appeals that could follow – he would very unlikely see the inside of a jail before he is 80 and Ricardo Salgado (now in its 70s) before he is in his 90s. 

Socrates* (469-399 BC) was a philosopher from Athens best known for his dialectic method of inquiry. He was put on trial for not believing in ‘the gods of the state’, found guilty, and forced to commit suicide by taking poison.


Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            
(ref Público/Político)











Democracy

After years of EU support, Portugal is still a backward country’

What is the state of Portugal’s democracy in the year that centre-left prime minister António Costa took over the European Chairmanship and centre-right president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected on a second term in office with a clear 61% of the votes.  

The PM holds the most executive power.The directly elected president has a more deliberative role as a warden of the constitution and head of the armed forces. The president also has the power to delay legislation, dissolve parliament and call for new elections. He or she ratifies international treaties, calls referendums and declares states of emergency.

Since it’s return from dictatorship to democracy in 1974 (Carnation Revolution), Portugal has a stable parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system and regular transfer of power between the two largest parties, the Socialist party (PS) and the Social democrats (PSD).

A new, anti-immigration and far-right party Chega ( ‘Enough’ ), however, is on the rise. Representing only 1% of the electorate in the 2019 elections – sufficient to gain a first-ever seat in Parliament – its leader André Ventura became third in the recent presidential elections with 12% of the votes, just behind the socialist veteran Ana Gomes.

Ventura’s performance makes clear that he has emerged as a political force in Portugal and in this year’s upcoming municipal elections his ultranationalist and xenophobic party – by many viewed as fascist – is looking like a serious popular choice.

International studies praise the country for its political freedom and civil liberties. The Freedom House Research Institute in Washington DC ranks Portugal 10th globally and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg even 7th. Higher than say the UK or Germany but lower than the Scandinavian countries.

Portugal legalised abortion in 2007 and same-sex marriage in 2010. Parliament voted in January this year in favour of euthanasia, bringing the new law a step closer.

Although domestic violence remains a problem, perhaps the most serious concern is corruption involving bankers, judges and high ranking politicians. Other democratic worries include abusive conditions for prisoners, persistent racism – especially with the uniformed forces – and discrimination of the Roma.

On the Global Democracy Index 2020 – drawn up annually by the Economist – Portugal fell from a ‘full’ to a ‘flawed’ democracy, mainly due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic, a reduction in parliamentary debates and lack of transparency in the spending of EU recovery funds.

According to European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform Elisa Ferreira, Portugal is still a backward country. In an online debate she emphasized that the billions to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic must be radically different from the past. ‘It has to be much more environmental, more digital and much more socially balanced’, she stated.

She further pointed out that the GDP per head in Portugal is extraordinary low. and that ‘no matter how much Lisbon grows, the rest of the country is too far behind to allow Portugal to take off.’

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Sapo)



Isabel

One of the best ways to launder money is to buy a bank

Cross-border journalistic investigation has uncovered an enormous corruption case orchestrated by Africa’s richest woman Isabel dos Santos, the first daughter of Angola’s former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and known in her home country as ‘the Princess’. The Angolan government claims that she has caused over a billion-dollar of losses to the Angolan state.

At the centre of the charges are claims that she used her position as chairwoman of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol – of which she was the main shareholder until sacked in November 2017 – to illicitly make millions of dollars payments via her EuroBic bank in Portugal to companies in Dubai controlled by her friends.

BPI (the Portuguese Investment Bank)party owned by the Angolan billionaire – willingly provided dubious services to her by opening a bank account for an offshore shell company on the Isle of Man to facilitate her buying of a 60 million worth real estate in Monte Carlo.

Joaõ Batalha of the Portuguese branch of Transparency International believes the Bank of Portugal – that under Portuguese law regulates banking activities in the country – was blatantly complicit. Former Euro MP of Portugal’s Socialist Party Ana Gomes has no doubt about it. ‘Portugal has become a laundry for corrupt money, that is bad for our reputation.’

Gomes points to EuroBic as an example of the complicity between former coloniser Portugal and Angola for the personal enrichment of the elites on both sides of the Atlantic. ’Under the former Portuguese finance minister Fernando Teixeira, the collapsed BNP bank was saved by the state with a huge injection of € 5 billion, creating EuroBic.
The bank was then sold to Isabel dos Santos for € 40 million and who became its CEO? Indeed, Fernando Teixeira!’

The level of complicity is very much political. It isn’t just Isabel and her husband, the Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo. She was acting as frontwoman for her father, the former president of Africa’s fifths biggest economy, who since 2018 lives in Barcelona and is said to have been stolen over 100 billion from the Angolan state during his four-decade presidency.

As more details about the corruption scandal become unveiled, Portuguese companies exposed to Isabel’s empire – energy giants like Galp and Efacec and telecommunications firm NOS – are holding their breath.

Questions are being asked about the Dos Santos 6% stake in Portugal’s oil firm Galp, the second biggest company on the Lisbon stock exchange market, with operations in Angola, Brazil and Mozambique. With a loan from Sonangol € 75m was paid for the stake, which was well worth over € 700m in February.
Last month alone millions ‘in cash’ were discovered in a safe deposit box that she holds at a branch of Novo Banco in Porto.

In April a Lisbon court ordered the ‘preventive seizure’ of Isabel’s 26% stake in Portuguese telecoms company NOS after a generalized freeze in February of all her bank accounts in Portugal in response to a request from Angola’s attorney general, who threatened to issue an international arrest warrant against her if she fails to cooperate with the investigations.

Isabel dos Santos– who in the summer of 2018 moved from Luanda to London – maintains that she is the victim of a political witch-hunt and doesn’t believe in a fair trial if she returns to Angola to defend herself.

Opinions remain divided over whether the Judiciary in Lisbon will be able – and willing – to flex its muscles given that investigating Angolan corruption will implicate senior Portuguese officials from across the country’s political spectrum.


Stay healthy                                    Fique saudável             (pic público/sapo)





Corruption

Portugal has no right-wing, left-wing parties, nothing, there’s a bunch of villains who come together to steal together  –  José Saramago

Perceived corruption in Portugal has for many years been just below the European average, according to the 2018 Corruption Index from Transparency International (www.transparancy.org).
This index ranks 180 countries on how corrupt their public sector is. The higher the number (0-100 scale) the less corruption. Portugal ranks 30 worldwide with a score of 64. Denmark and New Zealand rank first (score 88),  Somalia last  (score 10).

The reason for this standstill is the lack of political will and the ability to establish ethical conduct standards. This is reflected in the failure of the Parliamentary Commission on Transparency – established three years ago – to control members of parliament,  judges and attorneys. But also the government is to blame through its lack of vigilance in preventing abuse and unwillingness to punish corruption when it occurs.

The low number of convictions and the fact that 94% of the corruption cases are archived without trial, doesn’t help either to restore confidence in the authorities. ‘A national strategy to combat corruption – independent of the political colour of the government – is needed, believes João Batalha, president of Transparency and Integrity Civil Association (TIAC).

Former president Ramalho Eanes stated last month that corruption in the public service is a ‘complex problem that proliferates through society. Our civil society isn’t strong and autonomous enough against the state. The elected politician is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter and it is very difficult to change this culture.

Corruption costs the country at least 18 billion euros per year. That is about 8% of the GDP and more than the annual Health budget.
A recent inquiry by Eurostat under Portuguese civilians showed that more than 80% of the respondents were of the opinion that corruption is an essential part of the business culture.

It is therefore not surprising that Portugal is the least compliant of 49 European countries in the fight against corruption. A report from the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group (GRECO ) by the end of 2018 revealed that nearly three-quarters of its recommendations – in particular on political parties and the judiciary – were not fulfilled.
(red bars in figure)

Not only the Council of Europe is dissatisfied. The Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD ) concluded at the beginning of this year, that the judiciary system in Portugal isn’t functioning properly and calls for special courts to judge corruption and white-collar crime. It also recommends an electronic declaration of interest register for all members of the government and public administration employees.


Bom fim de semana          Enjoy the weekend
     (pic Público/EsqNet/Expresso)

Golden2

There is a lot of discussion about mass tourism and golden permits but in Portugal, one is inclined to say: ‘don’t kill a chicken with golden eggs.’ After reviewing the tourism industry, we will now take a look at another precious egg of the Portuguese state: the golden visa program.

Twenty EU states have golden visa or similar programs.
To obtain such a golden permit in Portugal one has to invest at least half a million euros in property in exchange for permanent residency and visa-free travel through Europe’s Schengen area.

In the past six years – between October 2012 and January 2019 – over 7000 golden visas have been issued by the Portuguese authorities. In particular to Chinese (> 4000), followed by Brazilians, South Africans, Turks and Russians. It yielded the treasury the sweet amount of 4.3 billion euros.

Just like luxury goods, residence rights are for sale. A multibillion-euro industry but not without risks. Real estate has always and everywhere been attractive to money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
Transparency International – the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption – recently accused the Portuguese government of being unable to control their golden visa program.

A special commission of the European Parliament suggested abolishing all golden permits as the potential economic benefits of these programmes do not compensate for the serious security risks. Unfortunately not all member states agree. A European database will instead be created, to verify if applicants for a golden permit at least have no criminal record.

The Portuguese government is going to maintain its golden visa program against the wish of the EU but is willing to make legislative changes to improve transparency. ‘Contrary to what happens in other countries, Portugal will continue assigning only residency – not citizenship – in exchange for investment, declared the Secretary of State for International Relations Eurico Brilhante Dias lately.

The majority in the Portuguese Parliament even wants to go a step further in the residency scheme for wealthy foreigners by introducing ‘green visas to investors, who spend at least half a million euros in ecotourism, renewable energy and other environmental projects that contribute to cut carbon emissions.
Much to the displeasure of the Left Bloc (BE), who wishes the program to end altogether and emphasises the hypocrisy between an immigration regime for the rich and the poor.

Bom fim de semana        Have a great weekend                (pic Publico/Sapo)

 

Sócrates

‘No one does wrong willingly or knowingly’ – Socrates, Greek philosopher

On November 21st at 10 PM, 2014  José Sócrates – ex-prime minister and former leader of the Socialist Party – was arrested at Lisbon’s airport, after flying home from Paris, under suspicion of money laundering, corruption, forgery and fiscal fraud.
He was held in preventive custody for 11 months but had to be released due to lack of evidence.

Almost 3 years later the Public Prosecutor’s Office officially closed down the final investigation – called Operation Marqués, named after the former residence of the prime minister at the Marqués de Pombal square in Lisbon – and published the results last week in a more than 4000 page’s thick report.

Except for Sócrates – prime minister between 2005 and 2011 – 9 companies and 19 individuals – amongst them important bankers, directors and public administrators – were together charged with 188 crimes.

According to the accusation, Sócrates received between 2006 and 2009 more than 24 million euros in bribes from the private enterprise Lena, the luxury tourist company Vale do Lobos and the biggest bank at that time, Banco Espírito Santo. The money is supposed to be hidden in bank accounts in Switzerland.

Carlos Santos Silva, businessman and personal friend of Sócrates, is said to be the key person in the process, acting as the mediator between the former prime minister and the involved companies.

It’s for the first time in the history of Portugal, that a former prime minister is accused of corruption during the execution of his function as head of state. But that’s not all. Operation Marqués also incriminates ex-CEO’s from big government agencies like Portugal Telecom and the state-owned bank Caixa Geral dos Depositos.

Socrates’ lawyers declared the accusations “totally unfounded and complete nonsense.” The defense is – by law – given 50 days to react to the accusations but already has requested an extension of one year, to be able to analyze the document in detail.

The ex-prime minister himself calls the report “a fantasy, a fable without any facts or evidence” and elucidates “that the purpose of the state has never been to investigate a crime, but to harass a target.”

This week his third book ‘The evil we deplore’ was published.’


Socrates ( 469-399 BC) was a Greek philosopher and considered the father of western philosophy. He showed how argument, debate, and discussion could help men to understand difficult issues.  In 399 BC he was put on trial for ‘refusing to recognize the gods of the state’, found guilty and forced to commit suicide by taking poison.

BOM FIM DE SEMANA                                                                                                                  (photo Público)

Permit

Portugal sells EU citizenship to corrupt millionaires, while thousands of refugees are knocking in vain on Europe’s door.

The waiter in restaurant São Pedro do Estoril speaks with that typical melodious accent. ‘You are right’, Liandro says. ‘I’ am not from here but from Belo Horizonte in Brazil. If I can keep up working in Portugal for five years, I’m allowed to apply for a passport and work all over Europe. The work is good and the people are nice, but I don’t know if I can miss my family back home that long. Deus é que sabe (God only knows).’

For wealthy people, there is a far much easier way. Portugal’s ‘golden residence permit’ – visto gold – requires an investment of 500,000 euros in property in exchange for permanent residency and visa-free travel through Europe’s Schengen area.

According to the government two-thirds of the more than 5000 ‘golden visas’ – issued since 2012 – have been to Chinese applicants. In recent years however, the number of Brazilian and  African investors is rising. The program has already generated more than 3 billion euros.

Real estate has long been attractive to criminals due to the potential to launder large quantities of cash. Last week the British newspaper the Guardian, together with the Portuguese weekly Expresso, published in a leaked document a list of corrupt Brazilian business executives and relatives of Angolan politicians – being accused of bribery – who had secretly bought access to Europe via Portugal’s visto gold scheme.

One of them is Otávio Azevedo, former president of Brazil’s second-largest construction company, Andrade Gutierrez. He received an 18-year sentence last year, after admitting a string of corruption offenses. Two years before his arrest he bought a € 1.4 million property in Lisbon and subsequently applied for a golden visa in 2014.

Another is Sergio Lins Andrade, chairman and main shareholder of the same company, who in 2014 acquired a Lisbon property worth € 665,000 through the golden visa program. He is estimated by Forbes to be worth $ 1.5 billion.

Relatives of the Angolan vice president Manuel Vincente – until 2012 chief executive of the country’s state oil company Sonagol – are also mentioned in the document. Vincente faced allegations earlier this year when he tried to bribe a Portuguese magistrate in order to suppress an investigation into corruption at Sonagol.

In a statement, the government said its golden visa scheme ‘strictly follows all legally established security procedures’. The European Commission already announced an investigation into all the golden visa programmes in the EU.

BOM FIM DE SEMANA