The prosecutor in the Sócrates tax fraud and money laundering case has admitted that she is waiting for the Swiss bank accounts statements of businessman Carlos Santos Silva, the former PM’s friend and co-accused.
The Swiss authorities formally have been asked to supply these bank records as Sócrates and Santos sit in jail to prevent them meddling in the investigation.
The requested information has a high probability of proving that transfers from Santos to Sócrates took place. This will lead to further questioning and the certainty of charges being defined and formally brought.
The prosecutor has said that Carlos Santos Silva was not involved in corrupting Sócrates, but had acted as a holder and distributor of Sócrates' ill-gotten €25 million that the former prime minister is accused of having amassed during his lucrative period in politics.
Until the bank records are received from the Swiss, and there is little reason to suspect that these will not be forthcoming, the evidence gathered from phone tap recordings and from other bank records point to tax fraud and money laundering – certainly enough to get the pair locked up while waiting for definitive proof from the Swiss banks.
Meanwhile, the current prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho has promised to return to the whole area of ‘illicit enrichment’ by those in public service, the criminalisation of which was passed by parliament but knocked back by the Constitutional Court in 2012.
The justice minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz said at the time that the matter would be looked at, but that was two years ago and nothing has happened.
The PM’s comments on illicit enrichment are flaky at best, "It is time to not give up, making a wider debate and to be consistent with proposals that may bring further disincentives for such behavior," waffled Passos Coelho in a TV interview as he invited "all parties to reflect on it."
The stupidity of presenting the Constitutional Court such a poorly thought our piece of legislation could be seen as deliberate. The problem was the reversal of the burden of proof where the accused had to prove he had not financially benefitted from his or her position and show where his money or assets had come from.
Legally this is on shaky ground. Judicial investigators might think that a certain person has committed crimes from which he or she obtained financial advantage, they can not prove that these crimes in fact happened but the person can be found guilty if the explanation of origin is not believed.
The bill was approved by parliament in February 2012, despite the Socialists voting against, they questioned the "principle of legality, the burden of proof and presumption of innocence."
The law was kicked up to the Constitutional Court by Portugal’s president Cavaco Silva. In September 2012 the judges ruled that the law in fact violated the Constitution, more precisely the principles of presumption of innocence.
If the law is redrafted and represented at the assembly, now is the time.