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Corruption Scandal Hits Regional Government

This morning the entire focus of the media was on the Judiciary Police investigations taking place in Madeira.

Since early this morning, the PJ’s mega-operation has been in the news, most newspapers, radio, and television. There are even national media outlets that have been doing live broadcasts for several hours from Funchal insisting that one of the three people under investigation is the Mayor of Funchal, Pedro Calado.

However, as of 1:30 p.m., this information was not yet confirmed. What was taken for granted is the mega-operation that involves several public services, including Funchal City Hall and Quinta Vigia. But the PJ’s searches also covered the home of the President of the Regional Government.

Later this afternoon the Judiciary Police confirmed, that they had taken three detainees into custody and undertaken 130 searches in this mega-operation.

In a statement sent to the media, the PJ informs that, within the scope of three investigations directed by the DCIAP, it carried out a police operation, aiming to carry out about 130 home and non-home searches, in the Autonomous Region of Madeira (Funchal, Câmara de Lobos, Machico and Ribeira Brava), in Greater Lisbon (Oeiras, Linda-a-Velha, Porto Salvo, Bucelas and Lisbon) and also in Braga, Porto, Paredes, Aguiar da Beira and Ponta Delgada and the arrest of three suspects.

The Judiciary Police said that the arrests in question were made at 2:15 p.m. today and that the detainees will be brought before the competent Judicial Authority, at the Central Criminal Investigation Court, for judicial interrogation and application of coercive measures.

It further informs that the steps carried out were aimed at collecting additional evidence, in order to consolidate the investigations into the crimes of active and passive corruption, economic participation in business, malfeasance, undue receipt or offer of advantage, abuse of powers, and influence peddling.

In the referred investigations, the PJ investigates “facts that may frame possible illegal practices, related to the award of public contracts for the acquisition of goods and services, in exchange for financing private activity; suspicions of sponsorship of private activity in return for support and intervention in the award of tender procedures to specific commercial companies; the award of public contracts for civil construction works, for the illegitimate benefit of specific commercial companies and to the detriment of other competitors, with serious distortion of public procurement rules, in exchange for the financing of activity of a political nature and personal expenses.”

Two Criminal Investigation Judges, six Magistrates from the DCIAP Public Prosecutor’s Office, and six members of the Technical Advisory Center (NAT) of the Attorney General’s Office participated in the operation, as well as 270 criminal investigators and experts from the Judiciary Police.

The Judiciary Police also underlines the collaboration of the Portuguese Air Force, “whose support was crucial to the human logistics of the operation.

Taking an official stance at 16:30 this afternoon, the President of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque said that he was collaborating with the authorities with a clear conscience.

The investigation is centering around three tenders. Specifically, related to the cable car project for Curral das Freiras, the international tender for the new buses for the region, and the licensing for the Praia Formosa Beach.

He went on to confirm that he has every confidence in the Mayor of Funchal, who was arrested today.

“Dr. Pedro Calado has always been at the service of the Region,” he stressed.  President Albuquerque did not clarify whether Cristina Pedra will assume the presidency of the Funchal Chamber.

Speaking about himself, the President said that he will not resign even if he was made a defendant in the process that led to searches today, which covered several areas of the country.

“If I am made an arguido, I will remain because I have to present my defence,” said Miguel Albuquerque a moment ago. The public investigation was authorised by the Court of Auditors and he was not contacted by the Judiciary Police.

He was calm when talking about the situation, saying “nobody buys me from me. I’ve never stolen anything from anyone, I’ve never asked anyone for anything.”

He also promised that his government will continue to govern and praised the cordial way in which the investigation is being conducted, expressing his willingness to collaborate in whatever is requested.

Samantha Gannon

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