23 January 2009

Vieira de Almeida's society says it clarified "financial flows" to the PJ

The law firm Vieira de Almeida, which represents Freeport, guaranteed today that it clarified "all the financial flows" related to the acquisition of the land where the shopping centre is located in Alcochete, to the Polícia Judiciária

In a press note, Vieira de Almeida (VdA) confirms that it was the target of searches by the authorities, clarifying that the diligences that were carried out today "only focused on the so-called Freeport case", not including the law firm, nor its partners or employees.

"The competent authorities requested VdA to give information today, and said information was placed at their disposal according to the law. VdA has clarified all financial flows that it intervened in, always as the legal representative of Freeport, namely concerning the acquisition contract of the property where the outlet is located, valued at 1175 million escudos" (approximately five million euros), the law firm mentions.

In the document, VdA further clarifies that this value "fully" concerns the payment of the land, as referred in the formal sales contract that was celebrated in September 2000.

"VdA has been Freeport's legal representative in Portugal since the beginning. Within this context, VdA has rendered Freeport, a society that is listed in England, juridical services during the various stages of the project's development, in the same shape as those rendered to international clients in general", the law firm advances.

Prior to releasing this note, Vieira de Almeida Associados says its contents was previously shown to the instruction judge and to the prosecutors that were present during the diligence, "who agreed with its terms", as well as to the president of the Lisbon district council of the Lawyers' Order, who approved it.

Sol advanced today that, apart from the Vieira de Almeida & Associados law firm, searches were carried out at the house and firms belonging to Júlio Carvalho Monteiro, an entrepreneur and maternal uncle of José Sócrates, and at the architecture office of Capinha Lopes, within the 'Freeport case'.

The process that concerns the Freeport of Alcochete shopping centre is related to suspicions of corruption in the changes made to the Special Protection Zone of the Tejo Estuary (SPZT), which were decided three days before the legislative elections in 2002, through a law decree.

The case became public in February 2005, when an article in newspaper O Independente, only a few days before legislative elections, divulged a document from the Polícia Judiciária that mentioned José Sócrates, then the opposition leader, as one of the suspects, due to allegedly having been one of the subscribers of said law decree when he was the minister of Environment.

Later on, the PJ and the Attorney General denied any involvement of the then candidate to prime minister in the Freeport case.

Last September, the Freeport process moved from the Court of Montijo to the Central Department of Penal Investigation and Action (CDPIA), led by joint Attorney General Cândida Almeida.

This year, on the 10th and 17th of January, the Attorney General released communiqués in which it clarified that, up to that moment, there were no indicia of the involvement of any Portuguese minister, from the present of from former governments, in eventual corruption crimes related to the case.

The AG's clarifications appeared following Sol news that "a Socialist minister from the government of António Guterres is targeted by the judicial authorities in the United Kingdom within the criminal investigation that is being carried out in that country, concerning the licensing process for the construction of Freeport of Alcochete".

In its edition of the 17th, the weekly newspaper assured that "a video recording of the conversation between an English member of the board of the firm that possesses Freeport and a partner of consulting firm Smith & Pedro mentions the payment of bribes to a Portuguese minister".

Concerning these news, the CDPIA asserts that "until this day no video recording or any other piece of evidence with juridical value, within the Portuguese law, sent by English investigators, was received, despite the repeated request for an ample and open cooperation made by Portuguese justice to English justice".

In the notes that were released this month, the AG recalled that the process is with the Central Department for Penal Investigation and Action and that the investigations await the fulfilment of a rogatory letter that was sent to England in 2005, stressing that a meeting with the competent English authorities has already been held to "ensure wider cooperation" between both parties.

According to the online edition of Público, the searches that were carried out today at several firms took place following a rogatory letter that was sent by the English authorities to the Portuguese [authorities].

The prime minister, José Sócrates, said today that he expects the judicial authorities to "swiftly do their job" concerning the Freeport case, recalling that it appeared during the electoral campaign of 2005 and "returns now when elections are to be disputed again".

Stating that he neither comments nor knows the activities of the judicial authorities, Sócrates said that he expects them "to do their job and to do it swiftly".


source: Sol, 22.01.2009




Note: Don't miss yesterday's SIC information special on the Freeport Case; unfortunately only available in Portuguese.

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