The prosecutors handling the Operation Marquês inquiry into high-level corruption and money-laundering have asked the Attorney General for at least two more months so they can complete their investigation and case building.
The current deadline is this Friday, March 17th, but the complexity of the case and the task of dealing with 25 official suspects, has forced the extension request which has been submitted by lawyer Rosário Teixeira of the Central Department of Criminal Investigation and Action (DCIAP).
According to Expresso, further investigation is needed into the role of the Espírito Santo Group which is alleged to paid out millions to the former Prime Minister, José Sócrates on the orders of Ricardo Salgado.
Today it was the turn of Sofia Fava, José Sócrates’ ex-wife, to be interrogated by the DCIAP in Lisbon
Sofia Fava is suspected of tax fraud and money laundering related to the acquisition of a farmhouse in Montemor-o-Novo, where a bank guarantee of €760,000 was signed by businessman Carlos Santos Silva, a friend of José Sócrates.
Also heard today was the executive director of Vale de Lobo. Diogo Gaspar Ferreira was questioned for less than an hour and left the DCIAP building without making a statement to waiting journalists. Ferreira is accused of money laundering and tax fraud.
The request for an extension to the inquiry may be denied. This it is not the first such request in a case that has dragged on for years, starting with the arrest of Sócrates at Lisbon airport in November 2014.
Certainly the request diminishes the public’s perception that Operation Marquês has been an incisive, detailed and efficient investigation and adds fuel to the claims by Sócrates that he has been singled out for political reasons and that his life deliberately has been made miserable with suspicion hanging over his head and no charges yet brought.
Sócrates’ lawyer, João Araújo, said he expects the Attorney General to "preserve the dignity and authority of her position," adding that the Attorney General, Joana Marques Vidal, should listen to all the defendants before deciding whether to accept the request to extend the deadline for the conclusion of the Operation Marquês investigation.
Araújo added that the public will be "scandalised" if the deadline is extended - "The prosecutors can not ignore the fact that the general environment of the country in this regard is one of scandal," said the lawyer, rejecting the argument that the extension of the investigation period is justified in the light of new evidence against the defendants, including José Sócrates.