BES boss breach of trust trial opens in Lisbon

 In Justice, News

A high profile trial involving the former boss of the Banco Espírito Santo Group, Ricardo Salgado, began in Lisbon this week.

The banker who once purportedly boasted “he owned the whole lot” regarding the failed BES group’s banking empire, will answer to three crimes of breach of trust before three hearings — one of which started yesterday (Tuesday) and again on the 8 and 13 July.
The hearings conducted by Judge Francisco Henriques are the result of a long-standing police investigation, Operation Marques and are sustained by a 200-page document.
The case had been postponed to the 14 June but the Public Ministry alleged it needed more time to analyse a challenge from the defence which had been delivered five days prior.
Then Ricardo Salgado’s defence team requested that the trail be postponed because of the defendant’s age — he is now 77 – because of legislation in force regarding the pandemic stipulating he was not obliged to attend the court in person.
The judge has now ordered the hearings to proceed this month, with later hearings due to take place in September. Others involved in the case who will also be heard include bankers José Maria Ricciardi, Amílcar Morais Pires, Michel Canals and taxman Paulo Silva.
From the prosecution, the Public Ministry will present a list of 12 witnesses such as José Maria Ricciardi (ex-head of BES Investimento and Salgado’s cousin), Amílcar Morais Pires, ex-financial director of BES and Salgado’s former ‘right-hand man’. Also Hélder Bataglia (ex-head of ESCOM), Michel Canals (Salgado’s financial manager in Switzerland) and Paulo Silva (a tax inspector who supported the procurator Rosário Teixeira in Operation Marquês).
According to the Public Ministry, Salgado’s defence lawyers have presented a list of 40 witnesses.
The former president of BES is facing three crimes of abuse of breach of trust on the back of the Operation Marques investigation.
Operation Marquês is a landmark case in which a former prime minister of Portugal, José Sócrates, was imprisoned and charged with 31 crimes of corruption, tax fraud, document falsification and money-laundering.
The Public Ministry accusation was drawn up by seven prosecutors and was contained in 11 volumes (5,036 pages), with 14,084 segments of fact and 189 crimes. The accusation sustained that José Sócrates “received around €34 million between 2006 and 2015 (while he was prime minister) in return for favouring the interests of banker Ricardo Salgado at GES (Grupo Espírito Santo) and at PT (Portugal Telecom), as well as guaranteeing the concession of finance by State Bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos in the Vale do Lobo development in the Algarve, and for favouring business deals, namely outside the country, of the construction group Lena.
Judge Ivo Rosa who presided over in the José Sócrates case, announced at the instruction phase that he would separate the cases of Salgado and the other legal suspects in the case – Armando Vara (an ex-minister), Carlos Santos Silva (an old friend of Sócrates), João Perna (a chauffeur) and José Sócrates, the only suspects that the instruction judge referred to on 9 April 2021.
Ricardo Salgado was accused of a total of 21 crimes: a crime of actively trying to corrupt a holder of a political post (i.e., the then prime minister José Sócrates), nine crimes of money laundering, three of abuse of confidence, three of document falsification and three crimes of qualified tax fraud.
In the case of José Sócrates, a court presided over by Judge Ivo Rosa, cleared the former prime minister of corruption charges but ordered that he would stand trial for money laundering and falsifying documents.
The decision to drop the corruption charges was a blow to prosecutors and outraged Portuguese public opinion. The decision was subject to a forensic post mortem by TV commentators for days.
Judge Ivo Rosa ultimately held up only a dozen charges as he read out a summary of his decision over the course of more than three hours, carried live on television. Prosecutors are allowed to appeal. A trial date has yet to bet set.