The archiving of the submarine case without a single prosecution has led to the frustration of thousands of Portuguese citizens.
An open letter to the Attorney General's Office already has over 4,600 signatures from citizens reflecting the widely held view that the archiving of the case was more of a politically motivated whitewash than a genuine attempt to discover the truth.
The submarine bribery case dragged on in Portugal for nearly ten years and was dealt with efficiently in Germany and Greece where successful convictions and fines were handed out for bribery and corruption.
The case in Portugal no longer exists, so more than 4,600 citizens already have signed an open letter addressed to the Attorney General's Office to express their frustration at the decision simply to airbrush the case from the records and possibly guilty parties allowed to walk free without the case having had a chance.
"After eight years, hundreds of thousands of hours and euros, 18 volumes of evidence, convictions for bribery in Germany and passive corruption in Greece, the Portuguese Justice system is shown up again as unable to perform the function that all its citizens demand - compliance with the law," according to the signatories of the open letter which will be delivered on Friday afternoon amid a planned protest to ensure maximum publicity.
The letter already has started off a petition in which signatories are to appeal to Parliament for the "reopening of the parliamentary commission of inquiry" that looked at the purchase of two submarines by the Portuguese state which were made in Germany by Man Ferrostaal and supplied by the German consortium GSC.
During the purchasing process members of the Espírito Santo Group were involved in the movement offshore of €27 million in 'fees' via Escom, another Espírito Santo company. The money was used to pay Grupo Espírito Santo board members €5 million, the Escom directors an undefined amount and the suspicion that others may have been included in the distribution of such a large sum, including defence employees and maybe politicians.
Despite the highly suspicious movement of this ‘fee’ and the fact that it has not all been accounted for, the Public Ministry failed to prove the existence of illicit financial flows which led to the archiving of the case.
"The investigation concluded that the GSC paid ESCOM UK €30,063,265," read the statement from the Department Central Investigation and Penal Action as the case was shelved.
The same document also refers to the convictions in the German court and the fact that Portuguese prosecutors were not allowed to have key documents from the German judicial authorities which were indispensable in establishing the route the money took and where it ended up to see if the payments constitutes bribed of any payment of bribes.
The money was routed through the Bahamas* where the authorities mysteriously refused to respond to requests for account and transfer information which may have proved who got how much and when.
During the investigation, opened in 2006, the following were named as suspects -
Miguel Nuno Horta e Costa, Luiz Miguel Horta e Costa, Pedro Manuel de Castro Simões Ferreira Neto and Hélder José Bataglia dos Santos. All were included in the investigation into tax fraud, money laundering and corruption.
Politically, the case reached Paulo Portas, who was heard as a witness. The current deputy prime minister was the Defence Minister when the submarines were purchased in 2004. The prime minister at the time was Barroso who went on to lead the European Commission.
The following extracts from the Bahamas Financial Services Boardleave reders guessing what part of regulation and money paundering it does not grasp.
"The Bahamas encourages the growth of its financial sector through adherence to internationally accepted regulatory principles, and efficiency in their administration.
Regulatory independence is maintained through the separation of roles of policy makers and regulators;
Regulation and regulators are subject to independent assessments by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the Caribbean sub-group of the Financial Action Task Force, and the International Monetary Fund;
The Bahamas also is an active participant in multilateral organisations established to set and monitor standards for regulation and Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT);
A regulatory consolidation is in progress to increase efficiencies and minimise administrative requirements on the private sector.
Anti-Money Laundering/Countering of Terrorist Financing
The Bahamas operates in a globally integrated market for financial services. As a result the country’s counter-money laundering legislation meets global best practices and standards.
The continuous review of the AML/CFT laws, policies and practices of The Bahamas forms the cornerstone of the jurisdiction’s commitment to uphold international standards and to protect the fine reputation of the country’s financial services sector. The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (“CFATF”) a FATF-style regional body comprised of thirty member states from the Caribbean Basin. The CFATF conducts peer reviews of its members’ AML/CFT laws, policies and procedures and assesses the extent to which countries comply with the Financial Action Task Force’s 40 + 9 Recommendations for preventing money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. The jurisdiction’s efforts to continually assess and strengthen its AML/CFT framework are on-going.
The Ministry of Finance is the designated Competent Authority under the various Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) to which The Bahamas is a signatory.
The Bahamas’ status in international agencies such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth, OAS and CARICOM allows it to keep pace with international standards. In addition it continues to signal a willingness to operate within negotiated parameters for the global delivery of financial services with its entry into the EU Economic Partnership Agreement and by progressing its accession to the WTO."