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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)