Jail confirmed for businessmen for aiding illegal immigration in case with “Os Nazarenos”

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The Coimbra Court of Appeal upheld the ruling that sentenced two soccer businessmen to prison for aiding illegal immigration and acquitted the former president of Grupo Desportivo “Os Nazarenos” João Zarro and the club.

“(…) The judges who make up the 5th Criminal Chamber of the Coimbra Court of Appeal agree to dismiss the appeal, confirming the judgment appealed against,” reads the decision, following the appeal of one of the businessmen, dated March 6 and to which the Lusa agency had access today.

In September 2023, the Leiria Judicial Court sentenced two foreign soccer managers to six years in prison for 13 counts of aiding illegal immigration.

These two defendants, one of whom was always absent from the trial, were acquitted of four counts of aiding illegal immigration and 17 counts of trafficking in persons, two of which were aggravated, which were also charged against them by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

As for the former president of “Os Nazarenos”, João Zarro, and the club, who were also accused of 17 crimes of human trafficking, two of which were aggravated, and 17 crimes of aiding illegal immigration, the panel of 1st instance judges ruled that they should be acquitted.

The case dates back to 2018, when João Zarro was approached by two agents who introduced themselves “as soccer businessmen”.

The businessmen decided to recruit Brazilian and Peruvian footballers who wanted to play professional soccer in Europe in order to “make a profit”.

The players were promised good working conditions, accommodation and food, as well as handling the logistical issues of the international transfer and legalization in Portugal, in addition to signing an employment contract and a good salary, with the promise of a transfer to other clubs of greater importance at national and international level, even though they knew they wouldn’t deliver.

In order to facilitate the recruitment operation and make the transfer of players more credible, the two businessmen presented themselves as managing partners of a player agency company. Through this company, they signed an agreement with the club, through its president, valid for the 2018/2019 season.

The Leiria court ruling listed the 13 players who were lured by the agents, considering that, “by not providing the players with food and decent housing” as they had committed to, “by not taking steps to legalize them” in Portugal, as well as not providing them with an income, the defendants knew that they were leaving them in a situation where they were incapable of resisting, opposing or supporting themselves by their own means in a convenient way, leaving them totally dependent on them.

In the appeal to the Coimbra Court of Appeal, one of the businessmen asked for the judgment of the Leiria Court to be declared null and void, “and for it to be replaced” by another in which “the nullities arising from the lack of reasoning” are remedied, or for it to be revoked and replaced by another that “alters the facts” and acquits the defendant of the crime of aiding illegal immigration.

If this is not the case, “the sentence imposed on the defendant should always be reduced to the legal minimum, and its execution suspended,” the document reads.

For the Court of Appeal, the “matter of fact that was proven” at first instance “has coherent support in the evidence produced, analyzed in accordance with the rules of common experience, without any logical leap or reckless statement to disturb the conclusions reached”, so the Leiria court’s conviction “must be recognized as legally valid”.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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