If anyone was expecting fireworks when former CGD director and convicted trafficker-of-influences Armando Vara addressed the parliamentary inquiry into the parlous state of State bank CGD they will have been disappointed.
The seemingly relaxed former PS minister had a ready answer for everything, except for when it came to the question about how many times he had talked to Sócrates about CGD.
Pulling a face and pausing noticeably, the question was repeated - at which point 62-year-old Vara said “as strange as it might seem” he couldn’t remember.
“He hadn’t talked, he can’t remember”, these were all answers that TVI 24 claims will now be forwarded by the commission to the Public Ministry, as PSD MPs “question whether Vara is telling the truth”.
Wednesday’s four-hour grilling in front of the parliamentary commission covered all the major loss-making loans extended by CGD while Vara was on the board.
Vale do Lobo and the Portimão Autodrome both came up, with Vara saying the former ‘wasn’t really such a bad loan’ after all (CGD is still over €200 million out of pocket) and the autodrome was possibly the only time that he talked about CGD with a member of the government - in this “single case”, the former secretary of state for Sport Laurentino Dias.
As Público points out, this was a conversation tapped by public prosecutors and released some time later by national tabloid Correio da Manhã.
In the recording, Vara is heard telling Dias - who is keen to get a slice of CGD funding for the autodrome - that he should ask the “boss” (Público presumes this means José Sócrates) to ‘unblock one of CGD’s investments at the autodrome’.
But Vara told the inquiry yesterday that he has no recollection of ever having called “that person” the boss - and his memory actually isn’t that good these days.
“There’s nothing in my memory”, he told inquirers, one of whom pointed out that it is strange that Vara can remember some things so clearly - citing a lunch over a decade ago with former finance minister Campos e Cunha which Vara appears to recall with great clarity - while other (possible) moments in his recent past seem shrouded with uncertainty.
“I am not a prisoner of what you think, nor of what you think others think”, Vara told Braga MP Hugo Santos. “I have always been loyal and spoken frankly. This may cause reactions in people who are not used to this”.
And so the parliamentary inquiry steered its way through ever-thickening treacle.
Vara meantime has yet to hear whether his appeal against a five year prison sentence for the trafficking of influences has been successful, while he is also a ‘key defendant’ in the long-running Operation Marquês inquiry into alleged multi-million euro corruption.