Spy chief called to testify on bug clearing for ‘golden visa’ suspect

Page created: Wednesday, 26 November 2014 14:49 GMT

Corruption  José Sócrates   Sócrates

Júlio Pereira, the secretary-general of SIRP, Portugal’s secret services, is to be called to testify to parliament on an operation to clear electronic bugs at the notarial institute (IRN), whose president is now a suspect in an investigation into abuses in the issuing of residence permits to foreign investors.

In the course of the investigation, dubbed ‘Operation Labyrinth’, Portuguese police witnessed the arrival of members of the SIS secret service at the office of the IRN’s president, António Figueiredo, who was later detained for questioning. It emerged that they had been asked by him to ‘sweep’ his office for bugs.

The opposition Socialist Party (PS) submitted a request to hear the SIRP’s Oversight Council on the case, but the deputy leader of the governing Social Democratic Party, Teresa Leal Coelho, went further, saying that she was accepting the request by the Left Block and Communist Party that Pereira, the top civil servant at SIRP, also be heard.

A statement issued by Pereira on the bug-clearing operation, in which the director of the SIS, Horácio Pinto, was involved, “left many doubts”, Leal Coelho said, stressing the need for “a full clarification on what happened.”

A Left Block deputy, Cecília Honório, described what the SIS had done as “sinister”, while Communist António Filipe said the Oversight Committee “oversee a lot, but never see anything”.

Socialist deputy Jorge Lacão queried whether Pereira should be heard by parliament, arguing that parliament oversees the government while the SIRP secretary-general is overseen by the prime minister.

The government’s so-called ‘golden visa’ programme to fast-track residence permits for big foreign investors has brought in €1 billion in just over two years, but in the eyes of some observers is wide open to abuses.

Another suspect in the investigation is Manuel Palos, who was head of the immigration service, SEF, until a judge last week ordered him remanded into custody.