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"I never spoke to Mr Sócrates"

Suspicions - Freeport intermediary spoke to Correio da Manhã in the Algarve

by Rui Pando Gomes

In a happy, relaxed tone, Charles Smith - who is pointed out as the intermediary who obtained the approval for Freeport after a meeting with José Sócrates - assured CM that he "never" spoke with the present prime minister.

After heavy insistence for him to clarify his connection to the controversial case, he assumed that he had a meeting at the Environment Ministry, but without the presence of the then Minister for the Environment. "I never spoke to Mr Sócrates", he asserted yesterday at the door to his house in Almancil, making it clear that, soon, he will "tell everything" that he knows so "there are no doubts left".

He says he is at the disposal of the Portuguese and English police and justice for "everything to be clarified" and "fully" denies that there was corruption in the licensing of the Freeport project.

When questioned by CM if a video exists in which he reveals that the missing millions were used for corrupt payments, as agreed during a meeting with Sócrates and his staff in 2002, Smith preferred to shrug his shoulders and to say that "everything will be clarified at the right time".

Concerning the statements from José Sócrates' uncle, who said that it was him who facilitated his approximation to his nephew the minister, he merely confirmed that "it was through the wife", who is a condominium manager at Quinta do Lago, in the Algarve, where Júlio Monteiro owns a luxury villa. "Júlio has already explained that he knew my wife and he only gave me an indication, that's all", Smith underlined.

Despite the fact that his name has been linked to the case, he doesn't consider that there was an intent to harm him personally. "Major confusions do happen in life and this is one of them", he referred. He considers everything a "major confusion" and guarantees that his conscience is "absolutely tranquil".

Once more questioned by CM about the reason why the English investigations point towards him, Charles referred that he wished to make no further comment. He considers himself a "mere construction fiscal" and wishes to continue to work in Portugal.

Suspicions of corruption emerged in 2004

The first suspicions that the construction of Freeport, in Alcochete, involved acts of corruption emerged in 2004, during the Polícia Judiciária's (PJ) investigations. CM knows that the issue was approached by the PJ and that at that time, there were rumours in circulation that the approval of the project's licensing had depended on the payment of commissions from British firm Freeport Plc. Quercus was one of the entities that were heard by the PJ.

With the revelations of the last few days, namely the suspicion that Freeport Plc paid four million euros of bribes in order to obtain approval for the project in Alcochete, the Freeport case gains a new dimension. Yesterday, a source that knows the process told CM that "in 2004 persons close to Manuel Pedro [a partner at consultancy firm Smith & Pedro] said that they had heard talk about payments to render the project viable".

What is certain is that the first instruction judge in the Freeport case detected "indicia that the suspects practised crimes of passive corruption for an illicit action and economical participation in a business deal". The suspects were Manuel Pedro, from Smith & Pedro, José Inocêncio, the former Mayor of Alcochete, Honorina Silvestre, a former member of the Municipal management, and José Manuel Marques, a former consultant for the local municipality.

Quercus opposed the project since the beginning. And it even filed a complaint with the European Commission, which never replied to the environmentalists.

Francisco Ferreira, head of Quercus: "Freeport will become another condominium"

Correio da Manhã - Will Quercus continue to question the European Commission (EC) about Freeport?
Francisco Ferreira - We'll try to find out with the EC what initiatives were taken after we filed the complaint, in 2002, because we never received news concerning its archiving.

- Is the politics of consummate facts worthwhile in Portugal?

- It has been practised by every government. The civil society is impotent against the political power.
- Freeport was saved from bankruptcy. Should this case serve as an example to politicians?

- Now they say that Freeport is doing better, but the day will come when we'll see another closed condominium with a view over the Tejo, in its place.


Telejornal - The subject occupied the initial 10 minutes, with a focus on Charles Smith.

Jornal da Noite - SIC opened with Charles Smith breaking his silence, denying the meeting with Sócrates.

Jornal Nacional - The case is the third news item, with the prosecutors demanding for impartiality from the Government.

source: Correio da Manhã, 26.01.2009

1 comment:

  1. " E A Débora (Deborah) veio cá e disse BRAVO!(a propósito de outro assunto).


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