The Court of Leiria has sentenced a former president of the parish council in Famalicão da Nazaré for two crimes of embezzlement.
Abilio Romão received a four year sentence which was suspended, to the anger and astonishment of locals seeing a politician in a position of trust, walking free despite a conviction for the theft of parish funds.
The judge handed out the suspended sentence and told Romão that he must repay nearly €8,000 that he stole in two separate acts.
The court gave the former parish council chief a suspended sentence provided he pays the State €7,823.72, “the amount corresponding to the advantage obtained by two crimes of embezzlement."
The first theft was in 2009, eight years ago, when the then president of the parish council "instructed the treasurer to sign a check for €5,000,” claiming that it would serve as a down-payment on the construction of a new sports pavillion.
Abilio Romão took the cheque to the local branch of Caixa Geral de Depósitos in Nazaré, cashed it and pocketed the money. He got three-and-a-half years suspended for this blatant act of thievery.
The second crime was in September 2013, when Romão instructed a council officer to write a cheque for €2,823.72 in favour of the Cultural and Recreational Center of the Football Association of Leiria as a deposit for a forthcoming event.
Romão cashed this cheque too, for which he got three years and three months of imprisonment – suspended.
The only punishment he received in this lenient ruling was a fine of €900 - in addition to having to pay back the stolen council funds.
“The defendant, as president of the Junta de Freguesia, used the amounts mentioned above for his own benefit, knowing that they were not his property and that they were intended for a different purpose," reads the judgment.
The court did not add interest to the stolen funds and Romão has a month within which to appeal.