Gaia’s Mayor is one of the defendants in Babel Operation

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The mayor of Vila Nova de Gaia, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, is one of the defendants in “Operation Babel”, during which seven arrests were made today and which investigates real estate projects worth around 300 million euros.

A judicial source told Pp today that the mayor of Gaia (PS) is one of five defendants in the case – in addition to the seven arrests – and is suspected of allegedly favoritism in hiring staff and companies.

The news that the Mayor of Gaia has been made a defendant in this case was advanced this evening by the online newspaper Observador, adding that the PJ, during the search, seized the mayor’s cell phone as well as various other documents.

As part of Operation Babel, the deputy mayor of Gaia, Patrocínio Azevedo (PS), who is in charge of Urban Planning and Land Policy, Urban Licensing, Municipal Works and Municipal Roads, was arrested, “suspected of receiving kickbacks of more than 120 thousand euros through his lawyer,” also arrested, “which would be the bridge with the two businessmen in the real estate industry, also arrested,” explained to Lusa another source linked to the investigation.

The two businessmen arrested are the CEO and founder of the Fortera Group, Elad Dror, and Paulo Malafaia, who had already been arrested in connection with “Operation Vortex”, under which the former mayor of Espinho, Miguel Reis, is in preventive detention.

Gaia's Mayor is one of the defendants in Babel Operation

Two Porto City Hall employees were also arrested, one of them the head of an urban planning division and another with connections to this division, and a senior technician from the Regional Culture Directorate of the North.

It is expected that the seven detainees will be presented for questioning on Wednesday, at the Criminal Court of Porto, for the application of measures of restraint.

The “Babel Operation focuses on the vitiation of rules and instruction of urban licensing processes in favor of developers associated with projects of high density and magnitude, being at stake real estate interests in the order of 300 million euros, by offering and accepting pecuniary counterparts,” explained the Judicial Police (PJ), in a statement.

During the police operation, according to the PJ, 55 home and non-domestic searches were conducted in various parts of the country, in municipalities and various public services, as well as companies related to the urban universe.

The Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia city councils as well as Metro do Porto were three of the places searched.

“At this stage, 12 defendants have already been constituted, and the detainees, a holder of political office [deputy mayor of Gaia], two officials of municipal services, an official of the Regional Directorate of Culture of the North, two entrepreneurs and a liberal professional, indicted for the crimes of receiving or offering undue advantage, active and passive corruption, prevarication and abuse of power committed by and on official or holder of political office,” reported the PJ.

The Gaia local authority has previously guaranteed that, “obviously, all the elements were provided” [to the PJ] and that the mayor, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues (PS), “gave express indication to the services for the provision of all the elements necessary for legal investigations.

According to that local authority, “the issues were duly documented, and the services remain fully available to cooperate with Justice and the investigation.

In a statement at the end of the morning, the Porto City Council said that the PJ searches in the municipal urbanism services do not target the municipality, but private companies with urbanistic processes there to process.

In addition, the municipality confirmed that the PJ was looking into two cell phones, without giving any details about who they belong to.

Earlier, a source from the Porto City Council confirmed that the cell phones of the councilman for Urbanism, Pedro Baganha, and a head of the Urbanism division were seized.

Searches of Gaia and Porto Councils cover 300ME real estate projects

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