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.