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Golden Visa trial starts - "I was just trying to help Chinese friends"

gavelThe former president of the Institute of Registries and Notaries, António Figueiredo, said in court that was "just trying to help Chinese friends" with their Golden Visa applications and hadn’t made any money out of it.

Accused of crimes of passive corruption for unlawful acts, undue receipt of advantage, trafficking of influence and prevarication, António Figueiredo decided to make a full statement in court to try and show that "there was no criminal intent" on his part.

Figueiredo said he had known the Chinese businessman, Zhu Xiaodong, since 2007, when he received a Chinese delegation at the Institute of Registries and Notaries.

This acquaintance became a friendship and later Zhu introduced him to another Chinese investor who also became part of his circle of friends, enjoying trips to the Douro and to Porto de Mós.

António Figueiredo said he did not use his influence and had received no compensation or undue advantage for the help given to his Chinese friends, who had "difficulties with the language and with bureaucracy."

Judge Francisco Henrique, questioned António Figueiredo about whether it was normal for someone in his position to intercede on matters concerning Chinese businessmen when they already had a lawyer.

Figueiredo replied that he had never used his services to "favour anyone" and was at pains to stress that he had obtained no monetary compensation and anyway, had helped the businessmen “out of working hours,” at a time when Golden Visas were essential to the country because of the economic crisis and at a time when real estate activity was stagnant.

The testimony of António Figueiredo, president of the Institute of Registries and Notaries between 2004 and 2015 and who has been held in jail as part of Operation Labyrinth, will be followed by that of Miguel ‘The Buck Stops Here’ Macedo, the Minister of Internal Affairs in the Pedro Passos Coelho administration who resigned while claiming innocence, and then was arrested.  

Others in the dock include the former Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, Maria Antónia Anes, the former director general of the Foreigners & Borders Service, Manuel Jarmela Palos and the Chinese businessman Zhu Xiaodong.

Operation Labyrinth investigated active and passive corruption, misappropriation of advantage, prevarication, embezzlement, abuse of power and influence peddling related to the fast-tracking of Golden Visas and possible back-handers for doing so.

In the afternoon session, Figueiredo admitted that he had received €20,000 for organising a conference in Angola, but denied that he committed any wrongdoing in the 'Golden Visa' case.

Asked by Judge Francisco Henriques about the amounts he received from Angola, António Figueiredo pointed out that, in the area of ​​registration and notary training and cooperation, it was agreed that "everything was paid by Angola."

He was also confronted with 25 thousand kwanzas (Angolan currency) seized in a house search. He justified this money with the cost of another trip to Angola.

The defendant has yet to explain a trip to Madeira in the company of Angolan businessman Eliseu Bumba and his acquisition of a hotel that was seized.

The trial has 21 defendants - 17 individuals and four companies.