Farewell to Carlos Alexandre in Ticão: coercive measures in the Altice case will be the last decision

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The Ticão judge was in charge of the most media cases, such as BES/GES, BPN, Furacão, Monte Branco, Vistos Gold, Marquês, EDP and now Operation Picoas, which involves the co-founder of Altice.

ankers, senior figures in the Portuguese state and businessmen have never intimidated him. Carlos Alexandre, 62, a judge at the Central Criminal Investigation Court, has been responsible for the most notorious economic and financial crime cases in his almost 20 years at the so-called Ticão. He ends his duties as a judge of criminal investigation this Tuesday and, in September, will begin his duties as a judge at the Lisbon Court of Appeal. The desire to be a European Prosecutor was left by the wayside, since three days ago the Public Prosecutor, José Ranito, was confirmed by the European Council as the new European Prosecutor for Portugal in the European Prosecutor’s Office, succeeding José Guerra.

On November 21, 2014, José Sócrates was arrested at Lisbon Airport. The historic arrest was validated by Carlos Alexandre. His reputation as a “super judge”, for his willingness to take on complex and violent criminal cases, has grown even more since that episode, filmed live on television.

He has been involved in cases such as Operation Hurricane, BPN, Mafia da Noite, Face Oculta, Remédio Santo, CTT, Operation Labyrinth, Operation Marquês, EDP case, Operation Lex, case involving Joe Berardo, death of the PSP agent, Tancos case, Álvaro Sobrinho case and, more recently, the case involving the co-founder of Altice, Armando Pereira. And it is precisely with this case, and the decision on the coercive measures applied to the defendants of the so-called Operation Picoas, that the investigating judge ends his (long) career in Ticão.

Carlos Alexandre, born in Mação, in the district of Santarém, has been at the TCIC since 2004. He gained fans among various judicial actors, such as PJ investigators and prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), because he rarely disagreed with the prosecution’s theses. He was treated very well by (some of) the media, even though the magistrate always publicly opposed the violation of judicial secrecy. Until 2015, he was alone in court for more than a decade, but that year Ivo Rosa was appointed as Ticão’s investigating judge, to share work with the super judge. And that is when the public and notorious rivalry between the two judges was born (see text below).

Among lawyers and magistrates, his reputation is not the best. There are those who consider that his decisions deserve a greater distance from the positions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. But the truth is that Carlos Alexandre has a minority of decisions overturned by the Court of Appeal. The requests for the removal of Judge Carlos Alexandre by the defenses of António Mexia and Manso Neto, in the EDP case and José Sócrates, in the context of Operation Marquês, are also known. But it is also true that a large number of lawyers in these media cases have complained to the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) about the magistrate’s actions or behavior. The most recent complaint earned him a disciplinary procedure – still ongoing – which may suspend his promotion to the Lisbon Court of Appeal.

This is because the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM) received a complaint from the judge of the Court of Appeal, João Abrunhosa, against Judge Carlos Alexandre. At issue is a judgment of the Lisbon Court of Appeal that accuses investigating judge Carlos Alexandre of not complying with a decision of a higher court, having maintained, on October 28, 2022, the seizure of the pension of Manuel Pinho, defendant in the EDP case. This happened fifteen days after the judges – with a higher rank than Carlos Alexandre, at the time – had decreed that the pension of the former Minister of Economy should be ‘released’.

It now remains to be seen whether the SCJ will exercise its disciplinary power in the same way as it did with Ivo Rosa, who currently has two disciplinary proceedings against him, one already closed and the other precisely for allegedly violating the duty to comply with decisions of higher courts. These cases have so far prevented him from becoming a judge of the Lisbon Court of Appeal.

Carlos Alexandre’s fame is nurtured in the shadows, behind the scenes of justice, but at the same time he is in the spotlight. He is the magistrate who decided to apply a three-million-euro bond to Ricardo Salgado in the course of Operation Monte Branco in 2015, who preventively arrested Oliveira e Costa in the BPN case and who was not shy about detaining for the first time the leader of a police force, Manuel Palos, former director of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

But years later, he posted even higher bail. Álvaro Sobrinho, former chairman of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA) for more than ten years, is suspected of several crimes linked to the management of the institution and was given a bail of €6 million. A fewmonths earlier, he made a controversial decision to impose house arrest or a €6 million bail on former minister Manuel Pinho.

In the summer of 2021, former Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira wanted to pay his €3 million bail through a property and Benfica shares. But the judge did not accept it. Carlos Alexandre considered that due to the fluctuations in the value of Benfica’s SAD shares, subject to market volatility and even the results of the club on the field, the conditions to accept the form of payment of the three million deposit proposed by Luís Filipe Vieira are not met.

Carlos Alexandre’s (few) interviews

In the famous interview he gave to the weekly Expresso in September 2016, he admitted that he knew his cell phone was tapped and that he refused to have a cell phone from the Ministry of Justice. “I returned it after I ran out of cash on a trip hundreds of kilometers away. I pay for the cell phone out of my pocket. I have here a cell phone with the number that I negotiated with an operator,” he explained. The magistrate, whose interviews can be counted on the fingers of one hand, Carlos Alexandre made a point of explaining his income. “I do my burden of proof: I have a gross salary of €5,600, plus €88 meal allowance plus €600 for not having a state house. That’s €6,200 a month. And then I have €2000 in deductions, so I’m one of the 300-something thousand civil servants who have had special cuts. Then I do a few weekends where I earn a net €70”.

But it was the interview he gave weeks earlier, to SIC, that generated the most controversy. The judge said he “had to work to pay” the “mortgage loans” he had taken out. He then ironically said that he did not have “money in the name of friends” and “I do not have bank accounts in the name of friends”, in a clear allusion to Operation Marquês and the facts that the Public Prosecutor’s Office imputed to Sócrates and his friend Carlos Santos Silva.

Two years later, weeks after the draw for the instruction of Operation Marquês, on September 28, 2018, which ended up in the hands of Ivo Rosa, Carlos Alexandre, in a live interview with RTP, defended that in all electronic draws of cases “there is a randomness that can be greater or lesser and that can condition the draw by the volume of cases that each judge has in his possession”. In a veiled criticism of the fact that the case had been passed on to Ivo Rosa, these statements ended up earning him the first disciplinary process of his career, although it was later shelved.

Altice case: latest searches and validation of coercive measures
Last week was most likely the last time Carlos Alexandre participated in searches as an investigating judge. As well as the interrogation of Armando Pereira, co-founder of Altice and his right-hand man Hernâni Antunes, in “Operation Picoas”, will have been the last one he directed. This Monday, Carlos Alexandre will decide on the coercive measures applied to the defendants in this case, after the MP has promoted them.

Six crimes of aggravated active corruption in the private sector, with reference to Altice employees (such as Luís Alvarinho, Alexandre Fonseca), one crime of passive corruption in the private sector with reference to Altice decisions, four crimes of money laundering and still crimes of falsification of documents, not yet fully accounted for. These are the crimes charged to Armando Pereira, co-founder of Altice. Hernâni Vaz Antunes, Pereira’s right-hand man, will have seven crimes of aggravated active corruption in the private sector (with reference to Armando Pereira and Alexandre Fonseca), eight crimes of tax fraud, six crimes of money laundering and also falsification of documents and false statements, not yet fully accounted for.

In total there are more than 35 crimes that the MP suspects in the so-called ‘Operation Picoas’, which revealed last week an alleged financial scheme around Altice, owner of the former PT, which will have damaged the State and the business group in hundreds of millions of euros.

Ivo Rosa v Carlos Alexandre

In January 2022, Judge Carlos Alexandre accused Ivo Rosa, also a magistrate at the Central Criminal Investigation Court (Ticão), of endangering the lives of undercover agents of the Judiciary Police. This led the Superior Council of Magistrates to investigate Ivo Rosa’s conduct.

The feud between the two judges did not start here. Previously, Ivo Rosa had accused Carlos Alexandre of leaving many orders overdue in the BES case, including one on the seizure of a bank account of Maria João Salgado, Ricardo Salgado’s wife.

Carlos Alexandre thus considered that his colleague from Ticão canceled “undercover actions (…), calling them illegal, putting undercover agents at risk of life”. These decisions were later annulled by the Lisbon Court of Appeal, “considering that they were illegal acts and ordering the reinstatement of the chain of evidence obtained through them”, said Carlos Alexandre.

Ivo Rosa (left side) and Carlos Alexandre (right side) Photo montage: Lídia Leão / ECO
Ivo Rosa (left side) and Carlos Alexandre (right side)
Photo montage: Lídia Leão / ECO

It was also in January 2022 that the law that removed the exclusivity of the duo Carlos Alexandre and Ivo Rosa in the “Ticão” was published in Diário da República. The law determined that this Court would have a composition with seven more judges, after merging with the Criminal Investigation Court of Lisbon. The powers of the Central Criminal Investigation Court were also extended. As of January, they include the crimes of undue receipt of advantage and influence peddling, as well as prevarication punishable by a sentence of more than two years.

At the time, the Minister of Justice, Francisca Van Dunem, justified this change with the existence of an “undesirable personalization of justice, which does not benefit the proper public perception of the objectivity of the action of justice. This context is aggravated by the fact that the cases that take place in that court acquire, as a rule, a high level of mediatization”.

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