There are dozens of mayors involved in processes with no end in sight – ZAP


Rui Manuel Farinha / Lusa

The Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira.

Dozens of mayors were in this term accused of corruption, dubious real estate deals and abuse of power, among others, in judicial processes that drag on, for the most part, with no outcome in sight two months before new municipal elections.

The municipal mandate that ends after the elections of September 26th has pending several justice cases related to mayors, since the operation “Ether”, on the breach of contracting procedures in the Porto Tourism Entity, involving mayors from the North of the country, to the operation “Secret Setting”, about irregularities committed in the Chamber of Oliveira de Azeméis, or to the operation “Tutti Frutti”, an investigation into alleged favoritism by political leaders over party activists, which led to searches of Lisbon parish councils and various municipal councils.

Among the main cases that have affected incumbent presidents in the last four years is the Selminho case, in which the mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira (independent), he is accused of malfeasance and runs the risk of losing his mandate because, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, he favored the family’s real estate in a legal dispute with the local authority over the ownership of land.

The start of the trial of the president and candidate for the Chamber of Porto in the scope of the Selminho case is scheduled for November 16, after the municipal elections.

The president of Pedrógão Grande (Leiria), Valdemar Alves (PS), is accused in two cases: he is accused of 11 crimes in a case that investigates the fire that killed 66 people in 2017 and responds in another case about alleged fraud in houses rebuilt with donations.

The mayor was elected president by the PSD in 2013, joined the PS lists as independent in 2017 and the socialist council approved his re-candidacy for Pedrógão in the next elections, but the name was rejected by the district, so Valdemar Alves will not re-candidate.

The mayor of Borba (Évora), Antonio Anselmo (MUB – Movimento Unidos por Borba), will be tried for five counts of murder in the case of the landslide in the quarry that dragged Municipal Road 255, on November 19, 2018, taking the lives of five people: two workers from a company of extraction of marble in the quarry and three men who followed in two cars on the road that collapsed.

António Anselmo has been Borba’s president since 2013 and may run for a last term in September, but he has not yet announced whether he will do so.

About two years ago, the PJ launched an operation that unraveled “a web” of political influences to allegedly pressure mayors and public officials to hire five companies from the family of Joaquim Couto (PS), mayor of Santo Tirso (Porto), who was then detained, eventually resigning from the position.

In “Operação Teia” the president of Barcelos (Braga) was also arrested. Miguel Costa Gomes (PS), fulfilling the third term, who was managing the municipality from his domicile, with an electronic bracelet, but was released in the meantime, with a term of identity and residence.

In April, the then president of Vila Real de Santo António (Faro), Conceição Goat (PSD), was detained under “Operation Triangle” on suspicion of corruption due to a real estate deal in Monte Gordo.

Conceição Cabrita, who had already announced that would not re-apply, meanwhile resigned from the mandate, awaiting the outcome of a trial for “a crime of passive corruption of a holder of political office and of “a crime of prevarication of a holder of political office”.

A trip to Istanbul, in 2015, paid for by a company that supplies computer material to local authorities, led to an investigation by the MP of about 30 mayors and businessmen, including the president and vice-president of Penamacor.

António Beites Soares, the president and socialist re-candidate in the next municipal councils, and his vice-president, Manuel Robalo, go to trial for “undue receipt of advantage”, after a court in Coimbra reversed a decision of the Fundão Court, which initially decided not to bring the two mayors to trial.

On June 2, the MP accused another 13 people, including six mayors, in the scope of this process, asking the president of the Chamber of Amares to lose his mandate, Manuel Moreira (announced by the PSD as a re-candidate for the position for a third term), the vice-president of Famalicão and a councilor of Vizela.

In October 2020, the president of Montalegre, Orlando Alves (PS), and the vice president, David Teixeira, were accused by the MP of direct adjustments to family businesses in Orlando Alves, in the order of five million euros, following searches carried out three months earlier.

Last March, the MP was more concrete and accused both mayors of malfeasance for having acquired, in 2015, an LED advertising panel through a local businessman, also a defendant, who did not sell this type of material, but decided to buy it from a specialist company for 28,500 euros and then supplying it to the municipality for 35,055 euros.

José António Jesus and Pedro Adão, current president and vice president of the municipality of Tondela, are being tried for crimes of embezzlement and document forgery, allegedly committed between 2010 and 2017.

The two mayors, according to the MP, will have received allowances for travel carried out in private vehicles, when in reality they will have used the municipality’s vehicles.

The former president of the Guard Chamber Alvaro Amaro (PSD) learned a few days ago that he is not going to trial for alleged irregularities in financing the event “Guarda Folia” with community funds in 2014, following a decision by the Guard Court.

In this case, the MP had also accused and asked for the current president to lose his mandate, Carlos Chaves Monteiro (announced PSD candidate for local authority this year), who replaced Álvaro Amaro when he was elected an MEP in May 2019. Carlos Monteiro will also not be tried in this case.

Almost simultaneously with his departure for Strasbourg, leaving the Chamber of Guards, Álvaro Amaro was appointed a defendant in the “Final Route” case, on suspicion of corruption, influence peddling, malfeasance, abuse of power and economic participation in business, within the scope of an “investigation aimed at clarifying the terms under which the Transdev Group obtained contracts and financial compensation with local authorities in the north and center of the country”.

In May 2020, Álvaro Amaro was also one of the mayors accused by the MP in a process for awarding public-private partnership (PPP) contracts to a construction company for the construction of equipment, between 2007 and 2011, which allegedly were harmful to the municipalities of Trancoso, Alcobaça, Sabugal and Gouveia.

Among the mayors accused in this term, at least two have already had a conviction: the mayor of Vila Verde (Braga), António Vilela (PSD), and the mayor of Aljezur (Faro), Jose Amarelinho (PS), were sentenced by courts to lose their mandate.

António Vilela, in the third and last term, appealed meanwhile from the sentence relating to a crime of malfeasance in a case related to a public examination and remains in office.

Now José Amarelinho resigned formally to the position on May 7, 2018, as a result of the sentence of a lawsuit for improper licensing of works in 2015, interrupting the third term.

In the case of Luís Correia (PS), from Castelo Branco, the loss of mandate decided by an administrative court, for having allegedly signed contracts with his father’s company, was confirmed by the Constitutional Court, after appeals from the mayor, who left the Chamber .

However, the process took a turn when it was absolved of malfeasance for the same case in a criminal case and this year he announced that he will again be a candidate for a third term in the municipality, but as an independent, after the PS has announced Leopoldo Rodrigues as its candidate for the municipality.