Members of Portugal’s Socialist Party are adopting a high-risk strategy by stoutly defending the former party leader and Prime Minister José Sócrates against suspicions of tax fraud and money laundering.
Mutterings of a ‘black campaign’ and ‘slander’ have reached the national press in a series of deliberate briefings, leaks and comments on social media.
José Sócrates at last is being questioned as part of investigations into the Monte Branco money laundering scheme. The possible involvement of the Francofile ex-PM in one of the largest organised tax evasion scams ever uncovered in Portugal has been met with outrage by Sócrates’s friends and political allies.
The vice-president of the Socialist party benches José Junqueiro has blogged that the attack on Sócrates is a shame and a thinly veiled attack on the Partido Socialista.
Two other socialist MPs close to Sócrates, Renato Sampaio and André Figueiredo, reckon the investigation is part of a "black campaign."
Allegations that José Sócrates is indeed involved in the Monte Branco scam were published on Saturday and published in the Sunday mainstream press.
Last week the situation was unclear as the Attorney General's Office stated that Socrates "is not being investigated and has not been made a suspect (arguido) in the Monte Branco case." This was followed up by a statement from the Central Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution saying the former PM is being investigated, but in a separate enquiry concering the €3 million purchase of a luxury Parisian pied-à-terre where Sócrates has been based since leaving office.
A crack team of tax inspectors, on the orders of the prosecutor Rosário Teixeira, are looking at where this money came from and who actually owns the Paris property as it may not be Sócrates.
Other suspects are Sócrates’ cousin José Paulo Bernardo who appeared in the Freeport case, and his friend Carlos Manuel dos Santos Silva who bought property for José Sócrates mother when she was affronted by a sizeable tax bill.
Socrates has been under surveillance for several months and of further interest to the tax authorities is the lack of clarity in his tax returns which have failed to list interest received from bank deposits since the 80s.