24 January 2009

Freeport Case: English Wanted to Investigate Sócrates

The English asked Portugal for José Sócrates to be formally investigated, within the Freeport process. The suggestion, which could imply phone tapping of the prime minister and home searches, didn't generate consensus and received immediate reticence from the authorities in our country. The request was formally submitted on the 18th of November, during a meeting in The Hague that was promoted by Eurojust, which sat both countries' polices at the same table.

by Eduardo Dâmaso / Tânia Laranjo / Sónia Trigueirão / Ana Luísa Nascimento / ARF 


The possibility of creating a mixed team, which had been advanced by the British authorities before the summer of 2008, wasn't accepted either. Three years after the beginning of the investigation and at a time when elections are looming, the heads of the Public Ministry and the PJ (the meeting was attended by Cândida Almeida, the director of DCIAP; Pedro do Carmo, the PJ's number two; and Moreira da Silva, the head of the PJ's economic crime fight unit) made their reserves concerning the timing of the process clear.

At that time, the English authorities informed that they held a DVD that documented a conversation between an English member of the board of the company that possesses the shopping centre of Alcochete and a partner of consulting firm Smith & Pedro. In that recording, the payment of bribes to José Sócrates, who was then the Environment minister of António Guterres, was clearly assumed. The board of Freeport, which was no longer the same that had launched the project, wanted to recover the amount of 4 million contos [20 million euros] that had been handed over to the consulting firm in order to obtain the licensing and administrative approvals for the project. After an initial phase of some euphoria, Freeport, a company that includes capital from the British royal family, entered financial distress and some shopping centres even went bankrupt.

CM knows that the Portuguese authorities also showed some reluctance concerning the evidence that had been collected by its British counterpart. The recording of the conversation on a DVD is not admissible as evidence under Portuguese law, and on the other hand, the money flow that has been detected does not point directly towards Sócrates. The national representatives understood that at the utmost, it is possible to establish a possible financing of PS [Socialist Party].

In The Hague it was further agreed that the investigations would proceed in an autonomous manner. Portugal needs for the English to fulfil a request for the supply of data that was sent in 2005 and has been dormant for three years, while the English investigation presented itself in The Hague with an identical request. It was within that frame of an autonomous investigation that the day before yesterday, the DCIAP carried out home searches on José Sócrates' uncle, in the offices of the law firm that took care of the legalisation of Freeport and on architect Capinha Santos, who signed the project. The request for cooperation from the PJ in Setúbal had been previously defined. Cândida Almeida and Maria Alice Fernandes, from the PJ in Setúbal, had agreed on the terms of support, which was finally requested by the end of the afternoon on Wednesday.

Law firm Vieira de Almeida & Associados was targeted because it organised the project's financing operation, and the search was accompanied by judge Carlos Alexandre. The money flows that were sent from English accounts into Portugal arrived at Vieira de Almeida's office, but this firm only assumes the payment of the property.

Bribes firm ended in December

Smith & Pedro, Consultores Associados, Lda, the firm that is suspected of having operated as an intermediary in the payment of bribes to Portuguese politicians, including present prime minister José Sócrates, was dissolved on the 5th of December 2008. It had been founded in August 2000, with an initial head office in Faro, at Urbanização do Vale da Amoreira, then moved to Alcochete in 2004 and ended up being dissolved last month when it was already under the mire of English and Portuguese authorities.

One of its partners, Charles Smith, is one of the persons that appear on the DVD that was recorded by an English member of the board of Freeport Plc, who came to Portugal on purpose to find out about the destiny of the millions of euros that had been transferred to Smith & Pedro in several instalments. In the presence of João Branco, an engineer that had been hired by Smith & Pedro to give technical support, the English member of the board questioned Charles Smith about the destiny of the money that had been sent into Portugal. That was when the partner of the consulting firm stated that it had been used to pay commissions to everyone.

The conversation proceeded and at a certain point in time Charles Smith, who was already an arguido in England, tells that everything was agreed upon during a meeting with minister Sócrates to facilitate the licensing of Freeport in the Tejo Estuary Special Protection Zone, a process that had been refused twice already and which would finally be approved by Guterres' Government three days before the election of 2002.

Investigation on TV

RTP: 22 minutes of silence

The State-owned television took 22 minutes to mention the Freeport case. The news that was read out by José Rodrigues dos Santos was based on the note from DCIAP - Central Department for Penal Investigation and Action -, where magistrate Cândida Almeida clarifies that Thursday's searches were made under the initiative of the Portuguese authorities, although it confirms that a rogatory letter from the English police was received. And the news closed with a brief summary of the Freeport case.

SIC: Freeport with full steam ahead

The tv station that is located in Carnaxide recalled the licensing process of Freeport, three days before the election of 2002. It mentioned a report with 53 pages that had been elaborated by the Environment Ministry that awaited evaluations from various entities. Within the deadline that had been set by the Government, the 14th of March, four days were left. Nevertheless, the process went ahead to secretary of State for the Environment Rui Gonçalves. Days later, it was approved by the government.

PS electoral campaign under suspicion

The investigations into the Freeport case indicate that PS may also have been contemplated with part of the four million Euros of commissions that have apparently been paid to several entities that intervened in the licensing process of the largest outlet in Europe.

As far as CM was able to establish, the suspicions point towards the firm of Júlio Coelho Monteiro, José Sócrates' uncle, having been one of the vehicles that were used to circulate the money through offshore companies.

In essence, the money left Portugal into England, through ISA - Investimentos Imobiliários, a construction firm based in Setúbal, where from it was transfered to offshores that are the property of Júlio Monteiro himself.

If this route for the money is confirmed, the investigators will find it extremely difficult to discover its final destiny. From a firm that is based in a fiscal paradise, like the Cayman Islands or Gibraltar, the trace of the money that was destined for possible commissions becomes undetectable. The PM [Public Ministry] and the PJ have to do a job that many consider impossible.

The controversial DVD

A member of Freeport's board questions Charles Smith:

- What was the destiny of the millions of euros that your firm received?

Charles Smith, partner of Smith & Pedro:

- That money was used to pay commissions to everyone.

Freeport member of the board asks another question:

- How do you explain that money had to be paid?

Charles Smith hesitates but starts to tell the story

- The money was used to pay for what had been agreed upon during a meeting with minister Sócrates (he only says the second name) to facilitate the licensing of Freeport.



The prime minister's rich maternal uncles

Prime minister José Sócrates has two rich maternal uncles, after all. Júlio Eduardo Coelho Monteiro and Celestino Júlio Coelho Monteiro are half brothers to Sócrates' mother, Maria Adelaide de Carvalho Monteiro.

They are both connected to the construction and real estate sector and own some joint firms. In Setúbal they built several enterprises, namely for residence and for commerce. Real estate agency Etermóvel, presently inactive, was owned by them.

Júlio and Celestino were also reference partners of Grão-Pará, the real estate firm by Fernanda Pires da Silva. But in 1989, Júlio Monteiro sold his participation in this real estate firm and only his brother remained. Celestino still holds 8,77% of Grão-Pará, through one of his firms that is based in the USA. Firstly, this participation belonged to Medes Holding LLC, and in November 2007, the 219 shares were sold to his other firm, Invesmon Limited.

Nevertheless, and so far, only the house and the offices of Júlio Monteiro have been targeted by judicial searches within the Freeport case. Júlio, aged, 67, divorced, born in Vila Real, lives in a sumptuous house with a pool, in the Cascais area, and owns a Bentley and an Audi A8. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

As far as CM was able to establish, it was in the building sector that this uncle of José Sócrates made his fortune. His firm, ISA - in which his brother Celestino also own a share - was the main promoter of a residential block in Parque das Nações. Júlio Monteiro also own several firms with Nuno Miguel Carvalho Monteiro, his son. These include Mito Selvagem, a motorbike sales firm.

Sources with the family guarantee that 'even with so much money and expensive tastes, these are simple people'. Sócrates' uncles and mother 'have a good relationship, despite only speaking to each other every once in a while', according to the same source.

'Something hidden that will be known some day'

When in July 2007 the court condemned the former Polícia Judiciária inspector from Setúbal over the violation of secrecy that is demanded from employees, José Torrão warned: 'I was the cherry on top of the cake of something hidden that will be known some day'.

Torrão, who intervened in some diligences within the investigation into the licensing of Freeport in Alcochete, was accused of trying to influence the case and of having photocopied an internal planning document that ended up being published in 'O Independente' in 2005. The extinct weekly, then directed by Inês Serra Lopes - who was acquitted on trial -, then advanced that the candidate for prime minister and former Environment Minister, José Sócrates, was under investigation. The news were denied but the former inspector ended up being condemned due to violation of secrecy.

‘I DO NOT VOTE IN MY NEPHEW’S PARTY’ (Julio Eduardo Coelho Monteiro, uncle of Socrates)

Correio da Manhã – Were you surprised by the searches?
Julio Monteiro – It seems impossible what is happening to me. I delivered everything they asked me and I can not say more because I have to respect the confidentiality of investigations. I am an honest ‘Transmontano’ [Northern Region]. Anyone who knows me knows that.

- But you must admit that the fact that the searches occurred in your house and company casts doubts?
- I am not the person that is shown in the news. I am honest. If you want to hit someone then hit that person directly and do not go around. You have messed with the wrong person.

– Are you talking about your nephew, the Prime Minister José Sócrates, and are you saying that this is a political issue?
– I don’t vote on my nephew’s party, but I am very proud with to be his uncle. He is a very brave boy. And it can only be a political thing. But I am not politician, nor do I meddle with parties.

– Do you or did you have business with your nephew, particularly in the Freeport? Do you have a close relationship?
– I only helped in some contacts. I can not say anything else. We are just family. There is not much interaction because he doesn’t have the time. Even is mother complains that it is difficult to talk with him.

‘I ARRANGED A MEETING WITH SÓCRATES’

Julio Eduardo Coelho Monteiro, uncle of the Prime Minister José Sócrates, said that it was he who had arranged a meeting between Charles Smith, a partner at Smith & Pedro, and his nephew, then Minister of Environment.

The TVI last night gave some extracts of the interview that the uncle of Socrates gave to the weekly 'SOL', in which Julio Eduardo Coelho Monteiro says that he was contacted by Charles Smith because someone was asking to the company Smith & Pedro 4 million contos [20 million euros] to license the Freeport.

When the ‘SOL’ journalist asked him who was asking the money, Julio Eduardo Monteiro Coelho says he did not know exactly, but it seemed to be a firm of lawyers.

The uncle of José Sócrates told to Charles Smith that that was impossible and that he would talk to the nephew. In a telephone conversation, with the then Minister of Environment, José Sócrates, he told him the version of Charles Smith and heard from the mouth of Socrates the following: ‘Lies, uncle. Send the guy to talk with me’

Julio Eduardo Coelho Monteiro told the report of the conversation to Charles Smith, who called the Ministry of Environment to arrange the meeting.

The uncle of José Sócrates does not know with whom the English businessman spoke with, but he admits that he [Charles Smith] combined the meeting with Socrates through the secretary of the Minister of Environment. Then, says the uncle of Prime Minister, I never knew anything else, ‘They told me nothing, they got the permit and not even a word they told me. Not even a thanks. I am upset with that.

The uncle of Socrates explained as well how he met Charles Smith: ‘His wife (CM knows what it is called Linda Smith) is the administrator of a condominium in Quinta do Lago (the CM knows that is the LakeSide Village) and we met because of that.’

Questioned by the ‘SOL’ journalist on the offshores that are in his name, Julio Eduardo Correia Monteiro proved to be surprised because they already knew that and exclaimed: 'This investigation is already advanced.’

And soon after that he guaranteed that it had nothing to do with the case or Freeport or with those funds, that it was completely out of the case and that his offshores were ‘not used for anything like that.’ Concluding he said: 'I'm telling you all of this and I have not yet talked with my nephew. I do not know if he will like it or not.’

Quotes

‘I met Charles Smith because his wife is the administrator of a condominium in Quinta do Lago.’

‘Charles Smith told me that they were asking him for 4 million contos [20 million euros] to give a license to the Freeport.’

‘It seems that those who were asking him for these 4 million contos [20 million euros] was a law firm.’

‘I told him that it was impossible and that I would talk to my nephew.’

‘I called my nephew and told him what Charles Smith had, the 4 million contos [20 million euros] story.’

‘My nephew's answer was: That is a lie, uncle. Send the guy to with me.’

‘I spoke to Charles Smith, informed him and told him to arrange a meeting with my

‘I think Charles Smith arranged a meeting with my nephew through the secretary.’

‘Not even a word was said. They got the permit and not even a thank you. I am upset because of that.’

‘Offshores in my name? How do you know that?’

‘I do not know if my nephew will like this or not. I have not yet talked with him.’

Sócrates does not remember his uncle request

José Sócrates confirms that as a Minister for the Environment, he held an ‘extended’ meeting in the presence of promoters of the Freeport venture and with representatives of the City Council of Alcochete, but he can not remember the request of his maternal uncle, Julio Monteiro Coelho, tor receive the promoters of the project.

'This meeting was held at the request of the City of Alcochete. I admit, though I do not remember that fact, that my uncle, Julio Monteiro, could have requested for me to receive the promoters in order to clarify the position of the Ministry on the project ', said yesterday the prime minister, in a note to the Media, in which he revealed his outrage and repudiates the news that involve him in the Freeport case.

In the same communiqué, Socrates ensures that the Environmental Impact Declaration that was favourable to the outlet of Alcochete was issued by Secretary of State for Environment, Rui Goncalves, ensuring however that the 'environmental approval of the project had fulfilled all the legal rules applicable at the time,' claiming to be victim of "slanderous insinuations and allegations." The Prime Minister has also turned the pressure on the MP to complete "the investigation quickly."

CHRONOLOGY

January 2002: LICENSING
The first application for a permit for the commercial area Freeport, in Alcochete, entered the City Council in January 2002. The first draft was rejected.

March 2002: MEETING
March 14th, just three days before the elections that Ferro Rodrigues lost [to the PSD], José Sócrates, the minister of the Environment folder, approved the project at the [last] Council of Ministers.

February 2005: 'INDEPENDENTE'
The Weekly 'Independente' published a document with the letterhead of the PJ - who came to be known as false - and that pointed José Sócrates, the candidate to be prime minister, as a suspect.

July 2007: JUDGMENTS
José Torrão, former inspector from the PJ of Setúbal, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment for breach of secrecy. He was accused of being the 'source' for 'O Independente'.

September 2008: AVOKED
The DCIAP requested the Freeport process to be consulted, which had been for three years in the Public Ministry of Montijo. Weeks after the case was avoked.

18 November 2008: MEETING
PJ's leaders and officials of the Public Ministry met in The Hague, Netherlands, to set a possible collaboration between the two entities.

December 2008: DVD
It was published in the press the existence of a DVD that had records of a conversation between an English administrator and a shareholder of the consulting firm Smith & Pedro. That one spoke of the payment of 'gloves' [bribes].

22 January 2009: SEARCHES
The Public Ministry and the PJ of Setúbal did searches in the house of the uncle of Socrates, to the lawyer who handled the case and to the architect Capinha Lopes who made the project.

NOTES

FREEPORT

The legalization of the space was made in record time. The environmental impact study was approved by the Council of Ministers, just three days before the PS lost the elections.

2005

The Freeport case first appeared in public at the beginning of the legislative election campaign that brought face to face Santana Lopes [PSD] and Socrates [PS]. At the time, the weekly ‘O Independente’ spoke of a list of 15 suspects. The news led to a process in which an inspector of the Judiciary was convicted.

Source: Correio da Manhã

Minor Update I The Prime Minister will give a statement regarding the Freeport Case to the media, in Alfândega do Porto, at 12:00, today.

Minor Update II The weekly newspaper Expresso revealed today, that Nuno Monteiro, the Prime Minister cousin sent an email to the Freeport representative allegedly asking for a reward, in money for being an intermediary between Charles Smith and the Minister of the Environment at the time, José Sócrates.

Translation By Astro and Joana [with loads of coffee and tea]

5 comments:

  1. Love the quote from the Portuguese Constitution! It is a useful reminder for those who seek to shut us up.
    Just saw the prime-minister press conference, totally demarking himself from any of his relatives possible actions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 2+2=4 or is it?

    If I wanted the attention of British authorities to be turned away from past wrong doings, why would not I do everything to save a couple of British doctors if asked sweetly to do so?
    Why would I give a f*** about a few PJ inspectors, Portuguese people dignity and the sacred Portuguese Constitution? I would only think about saving my own skin.
    In my humble opinion, some bloke with a very high state position did so.
    Joana, I could never thank you enough for what you have been doing to keep all of us informed and aware.
    God bless you and all the others who contribute to your noble mission.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tal como o Freeport, agora vamos ter o TGV e o novo aeroporto. Ora aí estão duas coisas em que acredito. Obras públicas, das grandes, das chorudas, das que rendem muito. Das que vão ter muitas derrapagens, trabalho a mais, revisões de preços, adjudicações à medida, comissões, luvas, financiamentos por baixo da mesa, lugares de topo nas empresas vencedoras. Uma intrincada teia de mãos bem untadas, um paraíso para banqueiros, grandes empresários, decisores e intermediários vários, sem esquecer os que levam – e lavam – os pacotes do costume.
    Mas as mentiras e os embustes – e o descaramento – não acabam aqui.
    Não é só a crise económica e financeira que ameaça a vida de todos nós, transformando o quotidiano de milhares de portugueses num inferno, empobrecendo os que nunca foram pobres e arrastando para a miséria os que já o eram. A sopa dos pobres e a caridadezinha já são instituições nacionais, como o foram nos tempos mais sombrios de Salazar.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Why does the name Brian Kennedy spring to mind when I hear Freeport?

    ReplyDelete
  5. se sócrates é ameaça ou não isso ainda não está provado.

    http://apombalivre.blogspot.com/2010/02/se-socrates-e-ameaca-ou-nao-isso-ainda.html

    ReplyDelete