The growing list of "autarkic dinosaurs" caught in the knots of Justice – The Economic Journal

The presidents of the municipal councils of Santo Tirso, Joaquim Couto and Barcelos, Miguel Costa Gomes, both of the PS, were yesterday arrested by the Judicial Police (PJ), under suspicion of corruption, influence peddling and economic participation in business in the field of public procurement. In addition to the two socialist councilors, PJ also held the president of the Portuguese Institute of Oncology (IPO) in Oporto, José Laranja Pontes, and the entrepreneur Manuela Couto, wife of the mayor of Santo Tirso.

Joaquim Couto chaired the Santo Tirso City Council in a first period between 1982 and 2000, and was re-elected in 2013, for which he has accumulated a total of 24 years. For his part, Miguel Costa Gomes has assumed the presidency of the Municipality of Barcelos (CMB) since 2009, reason why it accumulates a total of 10 consecutive years in the position. They are the two most recent additions to the list of "autarkic dinosaurs" caught in the knots of Justice. We recall here some of the most emblematic cases.

Narciso Miranda

He was president of the Municipality of Matosinhos (CMM) for 28 years, between 1977 and 2005, by the PS. He returned to the same position, but as an independent, in 2009 and 2017. In the same year of 2017, about eight months before the elections, the Oporto Court of Appeal confirmed the conviction of Miranda to two years and 10 months of imprisonment with suspended sentence, a crime of abuse of trust and another of falsification. The judgment proved that Miranda used, for its own benefit, approximately 35 thousand euros from a state subsidy to its recurrence in 2009 to CMM.

But it was not the only lawsuit involving Miranda, who in 2016 was acquitted by the Matosinhos Court in another case in which he was accused of crimes of abuse of trust, embezzlement, economic participation in business and crime simulation. Already in 2017, despite the condemnation and defeat in the municipal elections, Miranda assumed the position of councilman in the CMM, emphasizing at the time that he was born "vocation to do public service".

Isaltino Morais

He presided over the Municipal Council of Oeiras (CMO) between 1985 and 2002, successively elected with the support of the PSD. In 2002 (just one year after re-election as mayor), he moved to the position of Minister of Cities, Spatial Planning and Environment, in the PSD / CDS-PP coalition government led by José Manuel Durão Barroso. In 2005, at a time when he was being indicted in cases of passive corruption, tax fraud, money laundering and abuse of power, he disbanded from the PSD and returned to run for the CMO presidency, leading an independent movement. He then regained the presidency of the local authority and would be reelected in 2009.

The long saga of problems in the courts would lead to the fulfillment of an effective prison sentence between 2013 and 2014 for crimes of qualified tax fraud and money laundering. In 2017, however, Isaltino Morais again ran for president of the CMO, through an independent movement, and won again with an absolute majority.

Francisco Mesquita Machado

Mayor of Braga (CMB) between 1976 and 2013, by the PS, accumulating a total of 37 years in office. By 2008 it had already been the subject of an investigation into its assets, but the case was closed. Since his resignation from the WBC, because of the mandate limitation law, new suspicions have arisen and more lawsuits have been instituted.

In 2014, the CMB itself sent an audit to the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic to the management of former president Mesquita Machado, involving possible crimes of harmful management or prevarication. More recently, in 2018, Mesquita Machado was sentenced to three years in prison with suspended sentence (still under appeal), for crimes of economic participation and abuse of power, in the case of the sale of a building in Braga, when he was a mayor. He is also accused of committing the crime of malfeasance in another case related to a concession contract for the operation of parking in Braga.

Avelino Ferreira Torres

He began by leading Marco Polo Football Club and then jumped into politics, being elected president of Marco de Canaveses City Council (CMMC) for the first time in 1983 on the CDS charts. He held the CMMC presidency until 2005. About a year before he had been sentenced to three years in prison, with suspended sentence, for embezzlement. He appealed against the sentence and in 2006 it was reduced to two years and three months. After successive appeals, the sentence was deemed prescribed in 2011 by the Court of Appeal of Porto.

Involved in successive controversies over the years, Avelino Ferreira Torres was also accused in the scope of the "Golden Whistle" process and accused of crimes of corruption, embezzlement of use, abuse of power and extortion. In 2009, however, he was eventually acquitted by the Marco de Canaveses Court of the four crimes he was indicted by the Public Prosecutor's Office. In spite of the problems with the Justice, Ferreira Torres did not stop to apply in 2005 to the presidency of the Municipality of Amarante, like independent, but was defeated. In 2009 and 2013 he still tried to return to CMMC, being defeated successively.

Antonio Ganhão

Autarch of the PCP, presided over the Benavente City Council between 1979 and 2013, until he was barred from being re-elected to the same position by the new mandate limitation law. Already in March 2019 he was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, with suspended sentence, for a crime of prevarication of holder of political office. António Ganhão and his former councilman Miguel Cardia were accused of practicing crimes of passive corruption and prevarication of political office holder for alleged favors to a real estate businessman, Tiago Gallego, also accused in the process. The former mayor of the county will appeal the conviction.

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