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

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The searches conducted today by the Judicial Police (PJ) in the town halls of Gaia and Porto, which led to the arrest of the deputy mayor of Gaia and six other people, relate to real estate projects worth 300 million euros.

Operation Babel “aims to vitiate the rules and instructions of the urban authorization processes in favor of developers associated with high-density and large-scale projects, involving real estate interests in the order of 300 million euros, by offering and accepting monetary considerations,” explains the PJ in a statement.

Initially, the PP news agency reported six detainees, but PJ inspectors made seven arrests, including that of the vice-mayor of Vila Nova de Gaia, Patrocínio Azevedo (PS), responsible for urban planning and land policy, urban licenses, municipal works and municipal roads.

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

This criminal investigation force adds that there are “also indications of practices directed to the benefit of individuals in the area of recruitment of human resources and provision of services, by the municipal executive in question, as well as the existence of corruptive phenomena at the level of employees of other services in which these real estate developers had economic interests”.

In addition to being vice-president of the executive headed by Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues (PS), Patrocínio Azevedo, 48, is also president of the Commission of the Political Council of PS Gaia.

A source from Porto City Hall confirmed earlier that the PJ searches were carried out in the municipality, adding that the cell phones of the urban planning councilor, Pedro Baganha, and a head of the urban planning division were seized.

The PJ said that the operation launched this morning “is based on an investigation to detect and collect evidence of the practice of corruption phenomena, as well as repeated defects in the procedures of public procurement in specific sectors of activity, in order to benefit some economic operators.

The statement also states that “in the course of the procedure, documentary and digital elements relating to the practice of the facts have been seized with a possible evidentiary scope.

During the police operation, according to the PJ, 55 house and non-house searches were conducted in different regions of the country, in municipalities and various public services, as well as in companies related to the urban world.

The police operation is a result of a criminal investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office – Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) of the Porto region – in which PJ inspectors executed arrest warrants and searches, as part of a criminal investigation into corruption and economic-financial crime.

The operation involved magistrates from the Regional DIAP of Porto, 130 criminal investigators from the Northern Directorate of the PJ and various organic units, as well as IT and financial experts, with the support of the PJ Security Unit.

The detainees will be presented to the first judicial interrogation at the Criminal Court of Porto for the application of coercive measures.

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