MP considers Manuel Serrão “the main mastermind” of the 39ME fraud scheme

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The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) considers businessman Manuel Serrão “the main mastermind” of the alleged fraudulent scheme that has allowed almost 39 million euros to be obtained since 2015 for 14 projects co-financed by European funds.

According to court documents, to which the Lusa news agency has had access, the Porto businessman and member of the Selectiva Moda Association, is the main suspect and the “mastermind” of the alleged scheme to obtain EU subsidies, which today led the Judicial Police to carry out 78 searches as part of Operation Maestro, in which journalist Júlio Magalhães, António Sousa Cardoso, who led the Association of Young Entrepreneurs, and António Branco e Silva are also suspects.

Formally, João Oliveira e Costa is listed as the current president of Selectiva Moda, and Manuel Serrão and Paulo Vaz as members, but the MP says that Manuel Serrão is “the sole decision-maker in the daily and financial management of Selectiva Moda, instructing and directing the actions of the employees, determining payments to suppliers, namely in the context of co-financed projects”.

“It is further indicated that as the main mastermind of the fraud scheme, the suspect Manuel Serrão is the ‘technical manager’ indicted in all Selectiva Moda operations, being responsible for their execution and for managing the institutional relations established between that Association and the intermediate bodies AICEP – Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal, or management authorities (Compete),” says the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In 12 of the projects, Selectiva Moda submitted 13,711 expenditure documents, corresponding to more than 71 million euros, with the managing authorities considering more than 67 million euros eligible, which corresponded to more than 38 million in validated subsidies under the ERDF – European Regional Development Fund.

The investigation claims that, at least since 2015, Manuel Serrão, António Branco e Silva and António Sousa Cardoso, “aware of the rules of procedure governing the application, allocation, execution and payment of funds allocated under operations co-financed by European funds, decided to capture, for their own benefit and that of the companies they managed, the subsidies allocated to the Selectiva Moda Association and to the companies No Less and House of Project – Business Consulting”.

“Within the scope of these co-financed operations, namely through the presentation and use as expenditure documents to the projects submitted, with a view to the respective reimbursement, invoices suspected of being simulated business, without correspondence to services provided in the projects, or even invoices with overpriced values,” the MP stresses.

According to the investigation, the beneficiary entities controlled by the suspects, “by assembling contractual justifications, namely regarding the provision of services and the supply of goods or services”, obtained the approval and payment of incentives worth at least 38,938,631.46 euros, through fourteen projects co-financed by the ERDF.

The MP maintains that the three suspects “obtained the commitment of people they trusted, from within their circle of friends”, such as journalist Júlio Magalhães, “but also from the business world, and in particular from the textile sector, in the cases of Paulo Vaz, João Oliveira da Costa and Mário Genésio”.

Following the alleged fraudulent scheme, the suspects “created a complex corporate structure, made up of an organized set of legal persons, all controlled” by themselves.

These corporate structures, some of which were formally constituted or managed by third parties in order to create the appearance of autonomous entities with no connection to each other, were, the investigation believes, “used” by the three suspects “to forge documents necessary to justify the fictitious intervention of these entities”.

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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