Prosecutor claims former minister worked for Espírito Santo group while in government

Defence insists whole case “extremely weak”

The Public Prosecutor’s Office reiterated on Tuesday at the start of the EDP case trial that Manuel Pinho was at the service of the Espírito Santo Group (GES) while he was minister of economy between 2005 and 2009.

“When Manuel Pinho knew that he was going to serve as minister, he made an agreement with Ricardo Salgado, chairman of BES, to remain at the service of GES and, in the exercise of his functions as minister, to take decisions that were directed at the direct or indirect interests of the Group,” said prosecutor Rui Batista at the first session of the trial at the Lisbon Central Criminal Court, after two postponements last week due to the strike by court officials.

According to the prosecutor, the so-called corruptive pact “was made and concealed by Manuel Pinho through a resignation”, with Ricardo Salgado’s consequent response to accept the resignation and the definition of quid pro quos, including the payment of €15,000 a month, a sum of €500,000 and other benefits that also extended to the former minister’s wife, Alexandra Pinho, who is also accused in the case.

“This agreement was to maintain Manuel Pinho’s relationship with BES. The money was not declared to the tax authorities and was hidden through offshores. Alexandra Pinho took part, associating herself with this concealment structure in an offshore account belonging to the Tartaruga Foundation, being able to move this account, which she did during the time Manuel Pinho was minister,” Batista summarised.

For Rui Batista, the decisions taken by Manuel Pinho as minister of the economy were not in the public interest but in the interests of GES. He cited PIN projects (projects of national interest), the promotion of projects to which BES was linked, the reversal of a decision by the Competition Authority on the purchase of Autoestradas do Atlântico by Brisa and the role in Comporta’s bid to organise the Ryder Cup.

“Once he’s finished choosing Comporta, he’ll return to BES. That quid pro quo of retirement at 55 is replaced by a position at BES Africa, with remuneration conditions that were those that would have been guaranteed to him if he had retired,” Batista went on.

Ricardo Sá Fernandes, Manuel Pinho’s lawyer, considered the crimes of tax fraud and money laundering “a matter of law” since the money was later regularised with Portugal’s tax authorities, focusing his arguments instead on contesting the crime of corruption.

“The indictment is extremely weak. How do you establish a corrupt pact with conditions stipulated since 2004? Manuel Pinho is not corrupt,” he said.

Manuel Magalhães e Silva, Alexandra Pinho’s lawyer, argued that his client “is on trial for being Manuel Pinho’s wife”, while Francisco Proença de Carvalho, Ricardo Salgado’s attorney, claimed to be “the procedural mirror” of the former banker’s situation, referring to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease attributed to Mr Salgado, who was recently the subject of a neurological examination.

All in all this first day took on the guise of a form of shambolic operetta. The allegations have all been heard before; the denials have taken up endless column inches for years.

“There’s an inquiry underway. Let’s see what comes of it”, Proença de Carvalho continued on the subject of his client’s inability to defend himself through failing cognitive skills . 

“If a person is incapable of defending themselves and limited in cognitive capacity, the court has a responsibility to say what justice it wants,” he said, adding, says Lusa: “Let the court be sure to draw the appropriate consequences.”

As has been explained ad infinitum, former Economy Minister Manuel Pinho, under house arrest since December 2021, is accused of one offence of passive corruption for an unlawful act, another of passive corruption, one offence of money laundering and one offence of tax fraud.

His wife, Alexandra Pinho, is on trial for one offence of money laundering and another of tax fraud – in material co-authorship with her husband – while the former chairman of BES, Ricardo Salgado, is charged with one offence of active corruption for an unlawful act, one offence of active corruption and another of money laundering.

Source material: LUSA

Portugal Resident