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Monday
Dec012014

Ex Portugal PM detained for alleged graft

Portugal's former prime minister was detained at the Lisbon airport for questioning on November 21 and three days later was taken into custody for suspected tax fraud, money laundering, and corruption.

Jose Socrates, 57, pictured left, had led a Socialist government from 2005 until 2011.

He denies any wrongdoing. Also being investigated are his driver and a lawyer.

In Portugal, criminal suspects aren't charged until an investigation is finished. Prosecutors and police have eight months to complete investigations. Suspects can be held in jail during that time.

Two weeks ago, Portugal's interior minister resigned following an investigation into alleged corruption linked to golden visas for foreigners willing to invest $620,000 in local real estate.

Miguel Macedo denied any role in the visa scandal but said he resigned to protect the integrity of the government.

Police arrested 11 others, including the head of Portugal's immigration agency, for suspected corruption, money-laundering, abuse of office, and embezzlement.

The government said the visa scheme has attracted investment of more than $1.3 billion in two years. Most beneficiaries of the scheme have been Chinese nationals.

In May 2011, Socrates announced that Portugal needed a $110 billion bailout from the EU.

He lost a snap election a month later and moved to Paris, where he's been working for Swiss biotech firm Octopharma.

His lavish lifestyle in Paris has attracted attention. The media in Portugal have reported that his driver, Joao Perna, made several trips to Paris to transport cash.

Portugal will hold a general election in 2015. Before Socrates' detention, the Socialists held a 10 point lead over the center-right Social Democratic Party of current Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.