CHEGA leader “insists” minister of foreign affairs must go

André Ventura accuses João Gomes Cravinho of “a continuous lie” trying to cover up scandals

New revelations in Visão magazine, and Correio da Manhã tabloid, cast further doubt on the performance of former defence minister João Gomes Cravinho when he was in charge at the ministry of defence.

Now foreign affairs minister, the leader of right wing party CHEGA insists Cravinho has “no conditions to remain in office”.

Said André Ventura, in a video circulated over social media: “What we know today is that João Cravinho lied and lied again in the hearing he had (last Friday) in parliament. The consequence to me seems evident: João Cravinho has no conditions to remain as minister for foreign affairs because as minister of defence he failed; and also because while he remains a minister he continues to lie to the Portuguese and lied to parliament”.

Mr Ventura was referring to the news published today by Visão magazine according to which, between February and March 2019, Marco Capitão Ferreira advised the Directorate-General for Resources and National Defence on the contract for EH-101 helicopters at the same time as he worked for the office of the then Minister of Defence, as part of an alleged “ghost commission” that aimed to carry out a study.

João Gomes Cravinho was heard in parliament last Friday – together with the current defence minister Helena Carreiras – due to the controversies surrounding Marco Capitão Ferreira and Operation Perfect Storm, centring on suspicious contracts  drawn up between the ministry and several companies, between 2018 and 2021, which reportedly “harmed the Portuguese state” to the tune of “many thousands of euros”. 

During that hearing, Mr Cravinho did not mention that the former secretary of State (who resigned as soon as he was made an official suspect in Perfect Storm) worked directly for him at the time.

This news, which has become known today, makes us certain that João Cravinho continues to hide the essentials of the relationship he had as Minister of Defence with Marco Capitão Ferreira“, says André Ventura, accusing the minister of “a continuous lie in which he has become entangled to try to hide the facts from the country, the press and opposition parties“.

The CHEGA leader suggests “there are only two solutions: either João Cravinho leaves by his own foot, trying to ensure a last shred of dignity, or the prime minister has to dismiss him (…) There is no other way out (because) it is the prestige and quality of institutions that is truly at stake”.

The suitability of someone to be a minister is, above all, to tell the truth to the Portuguese and to the parliament to which he answers. All this was seriously violated by Minister Cravinho and there is no other consequence than resignation that can be acceptable to us,” Mr Ventura went on.

Pointing out that “Marco Capitão Ferreira’s collaboration with João Cravinho had been going on for some time”, the CHEGA leader said that “there would have already been a working group that, in clandestinity and in an absolutely informal way, worked for João Cravinho.

It means that João Cravinho from the beginning had the notion and awareness and deliberately wanted to keep Marco Capitação Ferreira in the scope of all advisory services and businesses now considered more suspicious by the authorities and denounced by the press.” 

Marco Capitão Ferreira resigned as Secretary of State for Defence at the beginning of July, the day he was indicted as part of the ‘Perfect Storm’ operation, suspected of the crimes of corruption and economic participation in business, and the target of searches, which also took place at the premises of the Directorate-General for National Defence Resources.

Marco Capitão Ferreira took office as Secretary of State for National Defence in March 2022 – in other words, since the beginning of the current Government, and was previously chairman of the board of directors of idD Portugal Defence, the holding company that manages public holdings in Defence companies – a position he assumed in 2020 and to which he was appointed by João Gomes Cravinho.

At the parliamentary hearing last Friday, the former defence minister and current foreign affairs minister assured that he did not appoint Marco Capitão Ferreira for the controversial advice provided to the Directorate-General for Defence Resources, referring the responsibility to former head Alberto Coelho.

Now, one could imagine that the fact that Mr Ventura has called for João Gomes Cravinho’s dismissal might not be considered that damaging, in as much as Mr Ventura is frequently calling for all kinds of people’s dismissals.

But since his intervention, Iniciativa Liberal has also said it is time for João Gomes Cravinho to go.

Leader writers also find the situation just a little too much to discount.

“Minister João Cravinho has been caught out by the facts that have come to light on various cases that involve his passage through the defence ministry”, writes Correio da Manhã deputy editorial director Eduardo Dâmaso, stressing one only has to look at the “scant transparency of methods and management at the ministry during (Cravinho’s) management, centred in the excessive breadth of action of director general Alberto Coelho (since dismissed and the key suspect in Operation Perfect Storm)” and “aggravated by his spurious contractual relations with Capitão Ferreira”.

At very best, Mr Cravinho could be ‘an angel’; an innocent. But to have such an ingenuous person leading a ministry of such strategic importance, someone “so disconnected from what people were doing under his watch, is the same as opting for an unacceptable regime of complete political irresponsibility”, writes Dâmaso.

Taken a little further, Perfect Storm now has 19 official suspects for ‘facts that occurred’ during the years Cravinho was at the helm, he continued. “It is practically impossible not to place the scenario of dismissal on the table (…) In a case of this dimension, experience tells us that it is almost impossible to contain the spiral of political and criminal responsibility”.

Right now, João Gomes Cravinho is on a visit to S.E. Asia with the prime minister and other members of government and the business community, the purpose of which has been and is until Friday to “deepen economic relations and cooperation in the fields of sustainable development”.

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Portugal Resident