sexta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2014

Madeira Hidden Debt Investigation Concluded

The "Cuba Livre" investigation into the Madeira hidden debt has been concluded. The Public Prosecutor's Office found that there had been falsification of documents and that the debt had indeed been hidden. However, they conclude that since the State suffered no negative consequences there was no reason to proceed and so the case is not going to Court.

This typical of the impunity nurtured by the Portuguese Justice system.

Not only was the State negatively affected by the hidden debt, the whole of the island's economy has been torpedoed and the taxpayers are landed with the bill.

The Public Prosecution's decision came mere weeks after the Banco Espirito Santo scandal hit the front pages of the world's newspapers. The timing meant that the Madeira hidden debt investigation got minimal press coverage.

The New Democracy Party, which was party to the denounciations, will appeal the decision,

terça-feira, 8 de julho de 2014

Purge at City Hall

The New Democracy Party has quit the Coalition for Change in the City of Funchal.

The newly elected Mayor, Paulo Cafofo, took a unilateral decision to remove the responsibilities of members of his executive, without consulting, never mind obtaining the consent of the coalition parties.

Three out of the five members of the executive resigned: Filipa Jardim Fernandes, vice deputy Mayor responsible for finances; Gil Canha, responsible for urban planning and markets; and Edgar Silva responsible for social services.

The decision to strip Canha of the responsibilities of markets and inspections was never justified, apart from a wet statement that the Mayor wanted a city that 'facilitated'.

Cafofo's gamble is seen on the one hand to have been an 'offering' to the Sousa group and to vested interests of groups linked to Jardim's party, on the hand a move to consolidate the power of the Socialist Party in the City Hall.

The Chair of the City Assembly, Luisa Clode, also resigned her post at the same time. The Coalition's position in the Assembly is now even more precarious, with the loss of the three members elected by the New Democracy Party, but curiously the PSD did not present an alternative list for the electing the new chair.

The new chair, Rodrigo Trancoso of the Left Block, was duly elected without difficulty

Jornal Trial Over

Selfie of the accused with lawyer on the steps of the Court

The trial of the protest against the Jornal's continued violation of the election laws finished last week. The judgement is due on the 24th.

None of the cases brought against the Jornal by the National Comission of Elections has yet reached Court.

The last few months have been taken up with a marathon of court trials brought by the Jornal and the Ports, which are not quite finished. They resume in September

sexta-feira, 4 de abril de 2014

Former administrator of Municipal Company convicted to three years imprisonment

Paulo Rosa Gomes, former Funchal City company Frente Mar has been convicted for the wonderfully euphemistically termed crime of 'economic participation in a business', which to all intents and purposes seems to mean embezzlement. His wife and a salesman were also convicted.

In practice, they were found to have pocketed Money for the rental of sun beds and sunshades, which is part of the business of the bathing resorts owned by the city. They were also condemned to pay Frente Mar a sum total of 68.000 Euros in damages, corresponding to the amount that they allegedly pocketed.

Rosa Gomes left Frente Mar in 2007 and remained advisor to the former Mayor, Miguel Albuquerque, until the end of his term in office, last year.

The jude said that the justice system could not be seen to be soft on powerful people, especially where white colar crime is concerned. Rosa Gomes is expected to appeal the sentence.

Source: DN

quinta-feira, 3 de abril de 2014

Ports Monopoly Discussed with EuroMPs

Last week I had occasion to attend a most interesting meeting held by the Madeira Chamber of Commerce, ACIF, at the City Hall: an event where local businessmen would have the opportunity to meet with and brief a group of EuroMPs of the Commission of Transport and Tourism, among whom were Nuno Teixeira, João Ferreira (Communist Party), Mathieu Grosch, EPP, Belgium and Zita Gourmai, Socialists, Hungary.

Towards the end of the meeting, I briefed the MEPs on the ports monopoly (in English so as not to tire the translators): that we are dependent on the ports for 80% of what we consume; that they are one of the most expensive ports in Europe, thanks to the Sousa monopoly; that the government receives not a cent from this operation and that despite Government claims to the contrary, the ports operation was a de facto monopoly.

Step forward Duarte Rodrigues, former President of the ACiF in the defense of the Sousa group, saying  that there was no monopoly, that the Ports operations were open to any company that wished to license itself…

"I was the former ports director and I resigned due to the way the Port restructuring was carried out", said the next speaker, Menezes Vasconcellos. "We ended up with a single operator and the most expensive port in the country. I was so disgusted that I brought over a large firm from the mainland to compete in the Madeira ports, but after five years of trying to get a license it became obvious that it was simply not possible!"

Up spoke the President of ACIF, Cristina Pedra, to say that none of this was at all true and that the only problem was the smallness of the market which left no margin for a second operator and tended to put off any newcomers. ..
She neglected to inform those present that according to the police investigation, her family has (or had) a stake in the Ports monopoly through and Offshore company; that her father was the trade union representative and administrator at the company that supplied the labour for the Ports operation, of which the Sousas were also shareholders; that a whole series of family companies were suppliers to this same company, and so on and so forth...

The Ports Monopoly Discussed in Parliament

The Socialist Party proposal for getting rid of the Sousa Group ports monopoly was discussed in Parliament yesterday but its discussion was put off by Jardim's party.

According to the CDS, the Sousas have been operating on a temporary license for nineteen years. All parties were against the fact the Sousas pay the Government, and therefore the region, NOTHING in return for the use of the license to operate using the ports facilities and infra-structure. This while practicing some of the highest prices in Europe, if not in the world.

Even the PSD, in the person of Jaime Filipe Ramos, who sits two chairs away from his daddy, the party's parliamentary leader, recognized that the current arrangement must be changed and that an alternative is being drafted by the Government. By whom and for when we do not know, but it was more than obvious that this news had a nauseating effect on Miguel de Sousa, whose face dropped to the floor.

Miguel de Sousa, a PSD backbencher is cousin of the Ports Monopoly Sousas, and also Jardim's latest challenger. Sousa is a more discreet and sophisticated operator than the Ramos clan, and those connected to him have been very nicely rewarded. Apart from his cousins who secured the Ports Monopoly, Sousa was also instrumental in setting up the 30 year concession for the running of the Madeira 'offshore' which was secured by the Pestana Group (again without public tender,)…of whom he is a business partner.

Since the construction sector, which was the main dominion of the Ramos family, has dried up, they now look on the ever-flourishing Sousa family with a distinctly less benevolent eye.

The Lifting of Immunity for Members of the Government accused of crime voted for the 1st time in Madeira

The lifting of the immunity from prosecution of members of the Government was voted for the first time in the Madeiran Parliament - but with a curious twist!

Hitherto, the Chair of the Parliament merely read the correspondence among which would figure letters from members of the Government requesting the non-lifting of their immunity from prosecution, and these, it seemed, often went unnoticed among the chit-chat of the MPs.

The New Democracy Party (PND), however, has long been trying to get the Public Prosecutor's requests voted, as already happens for the MPs themselves - but only after the newspapers (Garajau among them) exposed the MPs abuse of Parliamentary Immunity.

The New Democracy MPs (I am currently replacing Helder Spinola) have been challenging the Chair's procedure every time one of these cases crops up - which is remarkably frequent.

At the end of last year, in response to Helder's challenges, the Chair called for a legal written advice from a top constitutionalist, which duly materialized but was nevermore mentioned. I requested a copy and discovered why. The advice stated unequivocally that the authorization for the lifting or not of parliamentary immunity HAD to be voted.

Yesterday, for the first time, and giving the due credit to the PND, the Chair put no less than three requests for the lifting of immunity of government to the vote. To my great surprise, the two major opposition parties, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists voted AGAINST the lifting of parliamentary immunity.

Those who so often denounce corruption and denounce the inefficiency of the justice system are PROTECTING government members whenever the justice system does act! They complain, for example, of election fraud, but they are accomplices in protecting Jardim from prosecution in two separate cases brought against him for violating the election law.

domingo, 23 de março de 2014

Jornal publishes PSD results before they occurred!

The Jornal yesterday published the results of the PSD Regional Council meeting before they were actually voted. Albuquerque's motion to anticipate the party leadership elections was reported to have been voted down before the actual voting took place. The PSD militants greeted this act with shock and surprise, but to those in opposition it's no surprise. Jardim has always been obnoxious about flouting all rules and laws.

Even more amazing is that the Jornal refused to publish two pages of paid publicity: Jardim's latest rival, Miguel de Sousa's political program. This is a government-owned newspaper, which receives four million Euro per year to cover its losses, mismanagement and so on… and which refuses paid publicity. Let it be said that the PSD's  (i.e. Jardim's) programs are always published for free in this newspaper and sometimes they run to a dozen pages spread over several issues. The opposition's programs are naturally boycotted and obviously they do not want to support the dictator paper with publicity. For the Jornal to refuse publicity from a PSD candidate really shows  the depths to which the regime has sunk.

Of course, the person who is really morally responsible for this state of affairs- THE ONLY ONE - is the bishop of Funchal, D. António Carrilho, for the newspaper's editorial statutes confer him the power to designate the executive editor and to orient the paper's editorial line. The bishop both refuses to take on his duties and refuses to resign from them: He acknowledges that he gives Jardim full power to do as he pleases with the paper, but insists on remaining his alibi: that the editorial power lies not in the hand of the Government but of the CHURCH.

Madeira is a real case study into how democracy can be totally subverted.

Quinta do Lorde Saga

The storm over middle eastern investors pulling out of the mega-investment, Quinta do Lorde, is abating.

The Quinta do Lorde resort is a huge resort built in a Natura 2000 nature reserve, according to legislation adopted by EU governments in 1992 to protect the most seriously threatened habitats.

The land was originally site of a house built by Lord Shrewsbury, but which he never got to inhabit. After years of disinterest, and with very limited development possibilities it was bought by Ricardo Sousa, for next to nothing. But, as usual, once it belonged to the 'right' people all restrictions melted; the sky was the limit.

However, as usual, the plans were contested by environmental NGOs and activists. In 2008, Gil Canha, (now recently elected city councilor to Funchal), presented a denunciation to the Public Prosecutor's Office. A year later, when nothing had happened he put in an injunction against the development. The judge, despite admitting there were indications of illegality, determined not to defer the injunction because of the economic consequences the promoters of the project would suffer. The main case was duly filed but only recently registered.

In the meantime, the project had run into financial difficulties and ground to a halt several times. The banks sought for new investors and eventually found a consortium of middle eastern investors who duly began to pour in much needed money. However, they were apparently never informed of the pending court case and of its consequences - in Spain the  Marina Isla de Valdecañas resort, also built in a Rede Natura 2000 reserve was ordered demolished by the Supreme Court. 

Contacted by the consortium, Gil Canha showed willingness to drop the case (Portuguese Justice is no match for Spanish justice and the effects of demolishing the project could not undo the damage) in return for the fulfillment of some environmental demands, such as public access tot the beachfront  - but nothing doing until the Sousas stopped persecuting him and others (including myself) through court cases. 

The Sousas then orchestrated several workers demonstrations in front of Funchal City Hall calling for Canha to step down for causing the loss of their jobs. Their actions failed to carry public opinion. 

The Sousa Group are incidentally shareholders of the company contracted by the previous executive of Funchal City to draw up its new city plan and regulations!

'Face Oculta' corruption Trial may be subject to retrial

The defense in the Face Oculta Trial is appealing for a retrial, leading to the annulment of 180 hearings.   As always in Portugal, what is at stake is never the content of the accusations but the formalities of Portuguese justice. In this case the trial may fall because the defense argued that thirty days have elapsed since the last production of evidence. In fact, in the last hearing, a series of photographs were added to the evidence, but the defense argue this is not production of evidence and therefore the whole trial should go to pot.  Once again, the only thing that seems to function in Portuguese justice is the 'prazos': deadlines.

The defense will argue that the accusations be dropped due to the ex-president of the Supreme Court destroying the tapes of the phone taps made on conversations between the ex-prime minister Socrates and Armando Vara, claiming that hypothetical evidence in the tapes could absolve the accused. No little irony.  

Source: Expresso

sexta-feira, 21 de março de 2014

Case against former head of Millenium Bank prescribes

The court case against Jardim Gonçalves, former head of the Millenium Bank has prescribed, amidst mutual accusations between the Bank of Portugal and the Justice system.

The Bank of Portugal blames the judge for allowing the process to prescribe. The case was subject to 35 hearings, at the end of which, after hearing the testimony of the whistleblower, the judge decided that the denunciations were nul. The Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court determined otherwise, but the delay caused, of over two and half years, led to the case prescribing.

The Superior Magistrates Council riposted that the Bank of Portugal had taken five years to formulate their accusation, a factor which contributed greatly to the crimes prescribing. Portuguese justice at its best!

Moral of the story: the only thing that works in Portuguese Justice are the famous 'prazos': time limits.

Jardim fed up with his party after 36 years in power

Jardim completed 36 years in power at the head of the regional government this week and is three months away from breaking Salazar's record for longevity in power.

He now says he is not fed up with Madeira but with his own party and is considering forming his own party.

The statement coincides with the declared intnetions of his pal Garbiel Drumond, head of FAMA, the Forum for Autonomy, of which Jardim is also a member. FAMA is the successor of the the terrorist seperatist movement FLAMA, which resorted to the use of car bombs to intimidate and persecute people connoted with left wing parties after the revolution. Drumond stated that he intended turning the Forum into a political party.

sexta-feira, 7 de março de 2014

Ports Case 7 - Journeys billed to the ETP

The Police report, under the above heading says:

In effect, the ETP requested the services of the said travel agency, for journeys, car rentals and hotel stays, which despite being entirely paid by the ETP, were either partially used or used for private ends. The remaining values were credited to David Pedra or to the company belonging to the President of the Free Trade Union of Loaders and Unloaders, José Manuel de Freitas (Freitas e Célia)...

When questioned, Ricardo Jorge Ferreira de Jesus an ex employee of the Pateo Agency, said that effectively, following instructions of David Pedra and of the employee Noelia, they emitted bills to the ETP for services never rendered (journeys, hotel stays and car rentals), the cost of which were later credited to a current account opened in the name of David Pedra, for private use....

The current account of Freitas e Célia, the company beloning to José Manuel Freitas, and his wife, were credited with values of bills paid by the ETP.

It was also found that the companies Freitas e Célia, Pedra e Costa, Gest Lider, Soft Leader and the Stevedores Trade Union requested the emission of bills for services never rendered, and which were later used by the shareholders of the mentioned firms for private ends...

By way of example, the Management of the Meridian Park Porto Hotel was asked to inform the police whether on the dates from 18 to the 23rd of August 2002, José Manuel Freitas and , José Manuel Abreu dos Santos, president s of the two trade unions, had stayed at the hotel, according to bill nº 411 of the Pateo Agency. According to the Hotel, these persons were not registered as guests on those days.

Therefore, no doubts remain that this was one of the bills paid by the ETP for journeys not made, and whose cost reverted to other ends.

José Manuel Freitas denied everything.

This section of the report concludes that given the complexity of the investigation and due to some of the facts pertaining to a period which exceeds the timeframe of the investigation, the police suggest that all the relevant facts should be extracted for a separate evaluation. Given that the companies Gest Lider, Pedra e Costa and Freitas e Célia used the same strategy, the facts of the investigation should be sent the Regional Tax Office.

quarta-feira, 5 de março de 2014

Port's Case 6. Twenty Five Trade Unions signed petition against the Stevedore's Union

Following the denunciations of the temporary workers, 25 Trade Unions signed a petition on the situation of the temporary workers:

The Stevedores Trade Unions "do not defend the temporary workers of the Funchal Port", it read. They condemned the fact that the temporary workers work for over two hundred days a year in the ports (some for over seven years) but have no permanent status. They also repudiate the fact that the worker's canteen was transformed into a restaurant exploited by a company belonging to one of the trade union leaders.

Among the 25 trade unions signatory to the petition, made public in July 2001 were:
The Union of Journalists; Teachers; Hotel Workers; Construction Workers; Office and Commerce Workers; Embroideries Industry Workers; Bankers; Post Office and Telecomunications; Justice employees; Food and Beveridge Workers; Metalworkers; Local Administration Workers; Pharmaceutical workers and others

Miguel de Sousa candidate for PSD Madeira Leadership

Miguel de Sousa launched his candidature for the PSD Madeira leadership last week, criticising the unbearable debt which Jardim has left. Sousa, like the other two challengers is in favour of early elections, saying that it makes no sense to leave the party's internal elections till December.

Jardim has reacted saying that he is not addicted to power, but will not accept early elections, adding that if President Cavaco does not accept the handover of Government to his successor in December, he will opt to stay until the end of his mandate in 2015

quinta-feira, 30 de janeiro de 2014

Ports Case 5 - The Police investigation into the Temporary Workers' Denunciations

The Analytical Unit of the Public Prosecutor, resuming the Police investigation on Pedra's use of temporary workers paid for by the ETP at family homes, wrote:

According to the final Police report, all the debit notes say ‘payments of Mr. David Mendes Fernandes Pedra…”, from it can be deducted that these debit notes do not clearly and adequately discriminate what was being debited (identifying the workers used, the date and work hours, the place where the work occurred and the nature of the work), nor are they accompanied by supporting documentation justifying the amounts (showing the value incorportated the worker’s salary and social obligations supported by the ETP/RAM, namely, Social Security, insurance and the holiday and Christmas subsidies) going counter to bookkeeping rules, internal control procedures and accounting principles generally accepted and consigned both in fiscal law and in the Official Accounting Plan.

In our opinion, this evident debility in administrative procedures must have been intentional, since it appears inadmissible that the ETP/RAM does not prove the amounts attributed to that administrator, arising from the use of the labour of the temporary port workers for self-benefit or benefit of family.  Indeed, according to what was ascertained by the Police in its questioning, its seems one can conclude there was excessive concentration of functions both in respect to David Pedra, and to his daughter Cristina Pedra, who were after all the main beneficiaries of the labour used in their houses and apartments.

On the other hand, despite the searches made of the ETP installations, the Police refer that no temporary workers work contracts were found, relating their disappearance with the intentional acts denounced by some of these workers, according to whom many office papers were burned at the house of the administrator, David Pedra. The inexistence of these contracts, as well as other necessary information, namely the daily work control sheets, the itinerary sheets and the distribution of the workers per ship make it impossible to investigate the value of the amounts paid by the ETP to the temporary workers for tasks other than port work.

The report concludes:

Independently of it not being possible to confirm if that amount corresponded to the total disbursed by the ETP in wages and related costs for the diverted workers, and even if it had been, there is still at stake the abusive and illegitimate appropriation of the ETP’s monetary resources, and the financial costs of these ‘advances’ for a considerable period of time, and for which the ETP was only compensated on the 26th of June, 2001;   

According to the telephone taps transcribed in the attatchments, it is proven that this administrator continued to use the temporary workers even after this investigation got under way, given that in the telefone conversations he gave instructions to the office staff (Paulo Matos and Ricardo Freitas) to swap personnel and to get temporary workers to work, both in his house and that of his daughter, and indicating that those people who had been working there, be placed in the ports in order to settle accounts.

The Ports Case 4 - The Temporary Workers’ Denunciations

There were two types of stevedores employed by the ETP and OPM: the full time workers who belonged to the trade unions and the temporary workers, whose pay was inferior and who did not enjoy the same rights and privileges. Trade Union filiation was restricted. Although the temporary workers were taken on with daily contracts, they were in fact indispensible to the functioning of the ports, given also that many of the unionized workers were often on sick leave.

In June 2001, some of the temporary workers publicly denounced that they were being hired to work for the ETP at the private residence of David Pedra, the trade union representative in the ETP, at the house of his daughter, Cristina Pedra, who also worked for the ETP, and at the installations of the OPM. Their work consisted in painting and repairing installations and even menial household chores such as waiting at table and mowing the lawn. They claimed they were being paid by the ETP (of which the Government was a shareholder) to work for the private benefit of the Pedra family and others.

Confronted by the Diário, David Pedra peremptorily denied that this work was being paid by the ETP. He claimed he was being victim of persecution. The following day, Luis Miguel Sousa, boss of the OPM maintained that no port workers had been used for other purposes outside the port and threatened a libel suit.

The Police investigation confirmed the denunciations of the temporary workers. Further, it was shown that the workers had been paid for the ETP for private use and that David Pedra, after the denunciations had become public had passed a cheque to the ETP to cover the use of the temporary workers at his home and that of his daughter and others. The debit notes for this work were numbered sequentially and on the bottom left hand side had the designation “AGMOP/RAM” an entity which had ceased to exist in 1994, six years previously.

quarta-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2014

Director of the Jornal to stand trial for biased election coverage

The director of the Jornal da Madeira is to stand trial for biased coverage of the Presidential elections held in 2011.

The Jornal moved preliminar proceedings to have the case dismissed, but its arguments did not persuade the judge.

This is the first of three similar cases pending. An earlier one was expired, despite the judge finding that there were grounds for prosecution.

sexta-feira, 24 de janeiro de 2014

Ports Case 3 - Government non-supervision

"The Madeira Chamber of Commerce, ACIF", according to the Police Report (p1284), "carried out a study, whose main conclsuions, made public in 2001, indicate that 'the Port of Funchal was, substancially, the most expensive of Portugal (and even generally in Europe.)'"

The Analytical Unit of the Public Prosecutor's Office (NAT), relating to Government Supervision states:

Since the competitiveness of the ports is of strategic importance to the national economy, namely in what concerns port operations, the activity of offering services of cargo movement to the public, carried out by OPM, is considered to be of public interest, meaning that this company is especially obliged to "cooperate in the establishment of technical and administrative means to improve the port services, in terms of optimising costs and price transparency,---" (paragraph d) nº2, article 19 of the Decree Law 298/93, which established the legal regime of the ports operations.

In this context, and taking into consideration the powers of the ports authority, the NAT suggested that an information request be made to the APRAM - Administration of the Portso fo the Autonomous Region of Madeira, S.A., to clarify the way in which this entity exerted the power attributed to it of oversight and supervision and what guidelines may have been established, for the ETP and OPM, in terms of prices charged. In its answer, the APRAM merely recognised that, during the period considered in this investigation, "it had no intervention, nor did it set any guidelines on the matter of prices charged for the services rendered by the ERP/RAM or the OPM."

In this way, faced with the absence of the regulating and supervision role of the ports authority, and the OPM being the only stowage company operating tn the Ports of Madeira, the absence of competition has contributed to the prices that it is free to practice being the highest in Portugal, according to the comparative study of the ACIF.


terça-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2014

Ports Case - 2. ETP, the non-profit profitable company

The key player in the Ports operation is the company ETP (whose precursor was AGMOP). This at the time was a tripartite company whose shareholdres were the Stevedores Trade Union, the Regional Government and the OPM, which belonged to the Sousa Group.

The ETP was a NON Profit company which supplied the manpower to the OPM for the ports operation. .
Despite its non-profit status, according to the police report the ETP was nicely profitable (p.1288):

"During the period analysed (1998/2001) ETP charged its only client [OPM] 4.012.440.134$00 for the supply of labour, to which can be added debit notes to the amount of 10.650.000$00.

The ETP is a juridical entity which exercises a non-profit activity.

During this period the ETP had manpower costs of 2.358.119.469$00, social security and other costs costs of 488.774.785$00, and accident insurances worth 270.034.37$00, which allowed it to have a PROFIT of 895.511.510$00. (...)

From the research carried out it can be concluded that the costs of the ETP do not justify the high prices being practiced for the supply of manpower. Note that these profits would be far higher, if it were not for the advice costs born by the ETP, charged by other entities previously mentioned [i.e. other companies belonging to the administrators of the ETP and the Sousa Group]." 

We will get back to these other charges later. 


segunda-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2014

Ports Case - 1. The Ports Monopoly

In 1995, the Publico reported on the Ports Monopoly:

"in the next phase, already with Ricardo Sousa heading the ENM, the strategy of the [Sousa] Group turned to the Funchal port operation, an crucial area for controlling the sector and supplying the arquipelago. Through deals established with the trade unuions of the carriers and stevedors and with the Regional Government, the firm Operações Portuárias da Madeira Lda (OPM) became...the only private company working in the port.

Gradually, and always with the support of the Regional Government and the two trade unions - whose presidents drive BMWs and Mercedes, despite the organizations having only a few tens of members, the OPM rose, very soon, to a status that was contested by the port users and the Regional Ports Directorate. A statute that attributed to it a unique and particularly attractive privilege: the possibility to manage the port operation according to its own interests in the area of maritime transport.

In practice, accuse the former and current competitors of the OPM and the Sousa brothers, the control of the port operation allows them to have "a hold" over all those who manifest an interest in entering the market and to "squash" them.

'This is all mined by very influential people. The best is not to make waves. I don't understand if I'm in Calábria or South America", states a high employee of one of the three companies that compete with the ENM in the transport of goods between the continent and Madeira.

'We are witnessing the emergence of an octopus which spreads its tentacles of all that is maritime in Funchal', says Fernando Oliveira, president of the National Trade Union  of the Port Administration Workers, based in Lisbon. "In default of the law and of public interest, the port is being operated in an opaque way, which privileges one private firm and the stevedore's trade unions', added the same trade unionist.

One of the companies more frequently identified as a victim of the particularities of the Funchal port is João Silvério Pires - who until the end of 1992 operated the transport of passengers and goods between Funchal and Porto Santo. The methods allegedly used against it, say various port employees, went from the "massacre" by the overseeing authorities, to the charging of "absurd" rates and tributes, and to 'all manner of obstacles' to the unloading of goods in Funchal'...."

A decade later, the Investigative Police Report confirmed the obstacles to free competition:

It should be stressed that article 28 of the statutes of the AGMOP, resulting from the partial alteration of the statutes, carried out in 14-09-93, when MT was trying to enter the market of the port operations, practically blocks the entry of any new port operators.

sexta-feira, 17 de janeiro de 2014

Albuquerque acuses Jardim of rigging the last leadership elections

Miguel Albuquerque, reacting to Jardim's machinations to remove him from the leadership elections yesterday stated:

"The bolshevik fetish of punishing the right to opinion and the situation of personal and political persecution which is lived today within the PSD-M is not acceptable in a democratic party and regime". (Though apparently it was acceptable when the victims were not party members) He considers the disciplinary process moved against him "a cowardly expedient used by the current leader to cheat in the next internal elections, as happenedalready in the previous ones, to his benefit". (Albquerque does not seem to mind Jardim cheating in non-party elections though).

The former Euro-MP and also candidate to the PSD-M leadership, Sérgio Marques, who has also been smeared by Jardim in the Jornal, has threatened to withdraw his own candidature, should Jardim bar Albuquerque's candidature for leadership.

quinta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2014

Jardim tries to purge rival candidate

Miguel Albuquerque, the former mayor of Funchal has reportedly gathered the 300 signatures needed to call for an early congress in order to challenge Jardim for party leadership. Last year Albuquerque lost the internal elections by a margin of 2%. Jardim's popularity has since declined, but he remains intent on staying in power.

The Diário today revealed that Jardim has lodged a complaint to the party's political comission calling for a disciplinary process against Albuquerque which would result in a two year suspension of the right to vote or to be elected, thus frustrating the latter's leaderhip challenge.

Jardim acuses Albuquerque of harming party unity and of verbal ofenses. At stake are a series of articles published in the press. In one article, titled "The Witch Hunt", Albuquerque accuses Jardim of carrying out internal reprisals against those who do not bow to his authoritarian attitudes and are not intimidated by his excesses and insults. He lamented that democracy within the PSD had been stifled and questioned the lack of transparency within the party, saying that the rights of militants were being trampled underfoot to further the obsessions of a worn-out leadership which has lost its way and refuses to look to the future.

quarta-feira, 8 de janeiro de 2014

2014 A year of trials

The year 2014 is for me the year for Justice because it is also a year of trials.

Despite this end-of-regime decadence when even Bertie's top party members are dissenting and denouncing persecution, election-rigging, and funniest of all, that the PSD has become one-man-show, the Justice system has suddenly seen fit to finish all the remaining Garajau cases in one go. Don't get me wrong, I find it fantastic that the Justice system is getting its act together - I only object to its one-sidedness. The corruption cases and cases of election violations etc remain on the back burner, with no signs of moving ahead. The libel cases against those who denounce what's wrong (the word corruption cannot be used in Portugal since such a thing does not exist in this country) move speedily towards conclusion.

As I was saying all the remaining cases of the Garajau are to reach a conclusion this year. By last year, of the dozens and dozens of criminal complaints against the Garajau, only eight remained. And if anyone was wondering why this blog had been rather silent of late, the reason is that we had eight overlapping trials set start between the November 2013 and February this year. All the remaining eight cases were to go on trial within a four-month period! The justice system is busy with us!

Of these eight, two have been disposed of. Of the six remaining ones, four have been moved by the ports monopoly. Three of these cases pertain to the same factual matter and, cumulatively, a compensation of five hundred and fifty Euros in damages is being asked… for a satirical newspaper with an edition of 1500, less than half of which sold. Such hefty compensations are very dissuasive  indeed and the fact is that the ports have since largely been left to their own devices, both by regional and national papers. But the insistence to prosecute has lead me to take up the matter again, and look into the justice system's follow-up to the ports investigation, which is proving rather interesting.

Since I have decided that I will devote this year to writing about Justice rather than politics, I will be doing a review of the ports case and other such investigations, while simultaneously relating the developments in the various trials.


segunda-feira, 6 de janeiro de 2014

2014. The year for Justice

My problem with politics in Madeira can no longer be considered political. Yes, we have an idiotic dictatorship, bit the problem is not the idiotic dictatorship itself. The problem lies in the dysfunctional justice system that allows the law to be trampled and democracy to be totally subverted.

Anyone who likes watching crime investigation thrillers or trial dramas on TV would be sorely disappointed by Portuguese justice. In fact, I'm sure that's the reason these genres do not even exist in Portugal. The reality is so drab and pathetic that it is not even good material for comedy.

As far as Public Prosecution goes, most of the time, the employees are not only demotivated, they don't know what they are doing, or have been instructed not to think. I was once called in for questioning on a case for which I had compiled a detailed dossier and was asked a series of inane questions, simple facts of time and place. I pointed out that all the information was exhaustively documented in the dossier submitted. The investigator looked at a loss for a moment and then began to ask me another series of questions about facts that were also documented. I was flummoxed and asked why I was being asked these questions. "Well, you don't expect the judge to actually read through this whole dossier do you?"

Portuguese justice is infinitely good as splitting hairs and debating formalities. The law is a realm of its own and totally divorced from reality. If it is forbidden to ride a horse down a street one could argue that the law had not specified white horses, so that is actually permitted to ride white horses down the street or mares or zebras. As a consequence of such absurd nitpicking, the spirit of the law counts for nothing, and taking advantage of the infinite numbers of appeals allowed - if you pay top lawyers - you can argue any law away into insignificance.

But to deal with the obvious and the blatant somehow seems to overburden the Portuguese system and fuses burn: Its forbidden for the Government to hide debt; the Madeira President publicly boasts he has done this; Its too much information for the Justice system to handle; nothing happens.

An investigative thriller in Portugal would amount to filming a bunch of people sitting behind desks, bored as hell, surrounded by piles of files and yawning. Cut to a nighttime scene of judges partying with the crooks they are supposed to be judging the following day.