The Civil Protection Authority has been accused of closing down the Kamov helicopter maintenance area at Ponte de Sor and kicking out the Russian engineers.
On Tuesday, "The National Civil Protection Authority closed down and sealed the facilities where the Kamov helicopters are being stored and expelled the Russian teams that were servicing the aircraft," states Everjets.
“The Kamov helicopters were being repaired to operate at the start of the campaign to fight fires as from May 15th," reads the Everjets statement sent to the press.
The company warns that the readiness of these aircraft is "seriously compromised."
According to Everjets, the Civil Protection Authority claims that "the Russian maintenance company, Kamia Heliavionics, has been moving equipment and helicopter parts without prior authorisation, which has been normal over the years."
"Everjets, the company that operates the Kamovs in Portugal under contract with the State and which intended to comply with maintenance planning, is therefore unable to meet the objectives to ensure the readiness of the aircraft,” warned the company.
In February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said it hoped the three remaining Kamov helicopters would be operational to integrate the forest firefighting device this year.
The other three, second-hand helicopters purchased from the Russians, no longer are functional. One has been inoperable since 2012, another two have been in repair since 2015. The remaining three Kamov that should be fit to fly also have been grounded: two for maintenance and one for "lack of certification."
The cost cost to taxpayers of the Kamov deal has been around €42 million for the six helicopters, plus the cost of a 20 year maintenance contract with Heliportugal which finally was terminated by the State which then signed a contract with Everjets for the maintenance and the operation of this substandard, decrepit and mostly inoperable fleet. The cost: another €46 million over four years.
The Department of Investigation and Penal Action in Lisbon is investigating criminal aspects involving public servants in the Kamov fiasco and the subsequent maintenance contracts and, with Operation Crossfire, has lined up charges of ‘suspected corruption, economic participation in business, falsification and prevarication.’
As far back as 2004, the Court of Auditors analysed the 2006 and 2007 Kamov helicopter purchase agreements and concluded that the Secretary of State for Tax Affairs, Rocha Andrade, had bent the rules and certainly had not acted in the public interest.
With the remaining Kamov now sealed off, the government next will be ordering more expensive air cover for summer safety, with illicit payments included - if this corrupt bung-fest continues as per normal.
For those on the take, this helicopoter business has proved to be a gold mine. First, the ludicrously expensive purchase of clapped out Russian helicopters, then the necessity of having to hire contracted air cover.
The Air Force has been kept well at bay, depsite its offers to run the summer fire air support service as this would hamper civilians and civil servants feeding at the trough of public money that has been sloshed at this crooked system.