Corruption in Portugal
Our local newspaper is a wonderful source of stories for my blogs. So
much incredible rubbish is printed across the pages that it is
sometimes difficult to know where to begin.
First let me say that our local paper is simply a little local job
which has no pretensions to be a heavyweight. As such it copies out
press releases, which go into the paper pretty well as-is. And then it
ads a few special interest pages about gardening and looking after dogs
That is one of the problems with Portugal. Our local paper does not
seek to criticise, but the larger press enterprises should, but dont.
On the other hand, if you go across the border into Spain you will find
the Spanish papers are always criticising the government, or at the
very least entering into a lively discussion about what is going on.
Even the small parochial English magazines and broadsheets kick up
quite a fuss about the things they dont like.
Portugal has this culture of keeping everything quiet and secret. It
doesn't do to rock the boat, and so outrageous things continue to
happen here and nobody does anything about them.
The latest piece of idiocy has a government minister claiming there is
very little or no corruption in Portugal. That is printed in our local
paper as a straight-faced piece, and no comment made. Extraordinary!
Anywhere else the wretched woman would be torn to shreds for making
such an outrageous statement. But not in Portugal.
This is the country where government ministers and various rich people
have been using kids from the orphanages as sex toys. This is the
country where EU money poured in over the border with no restrictions,
and government hangers-on, and all their friends were lapping it up and
turning it into speed boats, and luxury mansions in Brazil. It wasn't
until about ten years of no progress that one or two people started
asking where all the new roads were, and why most policemen still
couldn't read, and why half the country's infrastructure just didn't
Sixteen years after the money started pouring in three quarters of the
roads in the Algarve were still dirt tracks, and the electricity worked
perhaps six hours a day. Where had all the money gone?
The press was silent. When I first studied economics I was taught that
the press was the first stepping stone in any democratic process. You
dont take part in a democracy by voting once every however many years.
You take an active part in the daily activities, and you can do that by
making your views heard in the press, and encouraging the press to dig
up scandal, and demand more openness from government, and so on. In
other words, it is the people and the press who should be screaming for
corruption to be hunted down.
It doesn't happen. It's not part of the public psyche. A woman accused
of over fifty counts of fraud runs away to Brazil with the money. She
then puts herself down for mayor in some village, and comes back to
fight the election. They cant lock her up as she is free to promote
herself for the purposes of the election. She wins. This is a hard line
crook. She wins. The Portuguese presumably like a crook because they
know they can get something done if they turn up in her office with
It used to be the case that if you wanted to pass your driving test you
had to place €300 in an envelope under the passenger seat carpet. If
the driving examiner found that money, you passed. If he didn't, you
Heck, this isn't even small time stuff. Just think about it. Say one
test an hour over an eight hour day with half the people paying the
bribe. That's €6,000 a week in bunce.
It's a way of life here. However, let's return to the article in the
The director of the Portugal's criminal investigation department said
that politicians "are not corrupt", and "Portugal is not a corrupt
country", obviously showing that she has been asleep all her life, or
has been taking the bribes herself. She goes on to say that when people
talk about corruption what they really mean is fiscal fraud and abuse
Oh, that's all right then. Glad we got that straightened out.
Hold on, that's what my dictionary defines as corruption.
When asked what she's doing about the last prime minister of this
corruption-riddled country (sorry, I mean country riddled with fiscal
fraud and abuse of power) she asked what she could do. "It is true that
he has this luxury lifestyle but what can we do? We would open an
enquiry on suspicion of what?" she said.
Well madam, the first suspicion would be that he'd raided the country's
coffers, or he had received some bribes if he is living way beyond his
normal means, and it is your job to try and find out where he got the
money. Of course, it's easier to do nothing. On the other hand, maybe
she is accepting bribes as well. Very probably.
The head of the lawyers has been asked to explain his expenditure,
which again is inconsistent with his salary. Nothing has been done
because he said "he knew of nothing" dishonest that he's been doing.
I'm reminded of a complaint made locally. Someone stole someone else's
bicycle. The first guy complained. The police came back and said they
could do nothing. "Why not?" Apparently because the accused said he
didn't do it, and that was the end of the matter, despite the fact that
the thief then sold the bicycle.
Protection of the law in Portugal? Forget it. The ultimate means of
protection here is a gun. The ultimate way round the law is some money
in a brown envelope. And remember this is a rich country. We aren't
talking about a few quid. We are talking thousands or tens of thousands
You want something done? You give the local mayor's daughter a brand
For the record, you now know the technical terms for this sort of
thing. It is definitely not corruption, the head of the CID says so, it
is correctly called fiscal fraud.
Oh yes, and one other thing to remember, the head of the CID has put it
on record that "we would open an enquiry on suspicion of what?" A
translation of that would read. "We'd turn a blind eye."
The other way of doing things is to do something but not very well, or
not to try very hard.
Apparently this woman has been prosecuting a case which requires some
evidence from Germany. It's not her fault things are not progressing
"We've been asking for the evidence by email for four years".
She doesn't say who she's asked, or in what language, or why if the
evidence is important no-one went to Germany to get it.
The woman is typical of the Portuguese attitude. Dont rock the boat,
especially if you can get a few perks from the business. And make sure
those perks are big perks. After all, it's not corruption.