An inquiry has been opened into the illegal adoption of babies arranged by a centre run by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
The Attorney General's Office has opened the inquiry in order to, "investigate the possible existence of incorrect or irregular procedures" in the case of adoptions arranged by the Church, based in Brazil and operated by the billionaiore Bishop Edir Macedo.
A seven-month inquiry by TVI found that at least ten Portuguese children were stolen from their biological mothers in the 1990s from a reception centre in Lisbon that was funded by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. The babies are alleged to have been taken from Portugal and adopted by couples based overseas.
The Attorney General's Office has stated that "there is an investigation related to this matter, and it has been referred to the Department of Investigation and Criminal Action of Lisbon for investigation."
The Judiciary Police’s deputy national director, Pedro do Carmo, said that no one had ever complained about these cases to the police but that a complaint now has been registered by Social Security with the Public Prosecution Service after TVI highlighted the facts that occurred more than 20 years ago.
Child abduction or criminal association can be investigated up to 20 years after the event, so adoption dates will be crucial.
Social Security was questioned as part of the television programme and the State's main adoption authority concluded that the home financed by the Church was not legal at the time of the events (between 1995 and 2001), even though the Social Security department had sent children there.
Following e-mails sent by the television station, the Social Security Institute had the opportunity to legally review this matter and concluded that the unlicensed centre was in breach of the law.
According to information provided by TVI, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God currently has 9 million adherents from 182 countries. It has 320 bishops and about 14,000 pastors. This evangelical church was founded in the late 1970s and is led by Bishop Edir Macedo, considered one of the richest men in Brazil with a media empire that include assets in Portugal.
The Church refutes accusations of kidnapping and running an illegal adoption scheme involving Portuguese children and considers any allegations a result of "a defamatory campaign of lies."
See also: 'KissFM Algarve and the billionaire bishop'KissFM Algarve and the billionaire bishop' (December 2015)