Searches at Cascais Town Hall on suspicion of corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power

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The suspicions that led to the search of the Cascais Town Hall, related to a Covid-19 surgical mask factory, may constitute crimes of passive and active corruption, prevarication and abuse of power, the Public Prosecutor’s Office said today.

“The crimes that may be involved, in a still preliminary classification and dependent on better evidence, are passive corruption, active corruption, economic participation in business, malfeasance and abuse of power, and no defendants have yet been constituted,” said the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the West Lisbon district.

In a note published on the public prosecutor’s website in connection with today’s raids on Cascais Town Hall, in the Lisbon district, it is added that the investigation is “under cover of secrecy”.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office explained that “a series of house and non-house searches were carried out today, targeting the municipal company Cascais Próxima – Gestão de Mobilidade, Espaços Urbanos e Energias” (Cascais Próxima – Management of Mobility, Urban Spaces and Energy), organic units of the Cascais City Council, “some members of these entities and two private companies”.

The note states that the searches “took place normally, without incident and with the cooperation of those targeted. Documentary evidence and, above all, digital evidence, especially in the form of emails, was collected”.

The facts under investigation “relate to suspicions of undue benefit to a private company owned by a foreign national”, through the sale to that company, “at cost price and without any formal public procurement procedure, of real estate and furniture acquired by the municipality of Cascais and structured as a manufacturing unit for the production of surgical masks”, he adds.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the events “occurred between May 7, 2020 and May 2, 2022”.

The searches carried out by the Judicial Police (PJ) at Cascais Town Hall began in the morning and ended shortly after 3:30pm, a source from the municipality told Lusa.

The mayor, Carlos Carreiras (PSD), said he was not surprised by the searches and explained that they stemmed from a report that the Court of Auditors drew up following inspections of the mask factory.

The mayor also said that the Cascais City Council had contested the report because it considered that “there were no irregularities”, stating that this is “what will be ascertained” with these searches.

Carreiras said he had a “clear conscience” and claimed to be the only person responsible for the whole mask factory process, absolving his then vice-president, Miguel Pinto Luz (now Minister of Infrastructure and Housing), as well as the other councillors.

The social democrat also revealed that, in addition to the town hall, the PJ was searching computer systems in the São José Building, where the municipality’s Urban Planning services operate, in the Cascais Center and in the municipal company that managed the communication process related to the masks.

In June 2020, the municipality launched its own production of personal protective surgical masks for the population, with equipment from China, also supplying other municipalities.

In an investment of 500,000 euros, Cascais has converted an old warehouse into a mask-making factory.

He also bought two machines in China and, by June 28, 2020, he had “a production capacity of more than five million masks per month, with a production cost per unit that [was] half of the best price on the market,” said then councillor Miguel Pinto Luz.

The municipality also made 400 mask dispensers available throughout the county and distributed free masks to public transport users, where this equipment was mandatory following the covid-19 prevention measures.

The Liberal Initiative (IL) of Cascais, meanwhile, considered the searches in the municipality “worrying”, saying that they may be related to the sale of the warehouses where the factory operated to the company that installed and produced the masks.

“In reality, Cascais City Council seems to have chosen the same value for which it acquired the warehouses in 2020 as the criterion for determining the sale price in 2021, despite the fact that the market conditions are clearly different,” the Cascais council said in a statement.

According to the party, the municipality argued that “among the reasons for the sale to Shiningjoy was the fact that this company had a partnership with the municipal company Cascais Próxima E.M. S.A. for the production of personal protective equipment due to the pandemic”.

In addition, say the liberals, the municipality pointed to the fact that Shiningjoy has “extensive experience in the manufacture of this type of material, has equipped the facilities with four more machines for the production of personal protective equipment and has created 30 jobs”.

“This type of argument, in which it appears that a particular buyer has been given preference based solely on the partnership relationship that exists between it and a municipal company, is completely incomprehensible,” explained IL.

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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