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Top banker and former Minister sentenced to jail

Atualizado: 7 de jun.

A poster in Lisbon depicting the masked face of Ricardo Salgado reads: ‘It’s hard to be a banker nowadays’ © AFP

Ricardo Espírito Santo Salgado, who between 1991 and 2014 was the chief executive of Banco Espírito Santo (BES), Portugal most important banking dynasty, has been sentenced to six years and three months in prison in the so-called ‘EDP Case’ trial.

The panel of judges, chaired by magistrate Ana Paula Rosa from Lisbon’s Central Criminal Court, also sentenced Portugal’s former Economy Minister Manuel Pinho and his wife, Alexandra Pinho, to 10 years and four-year, eight-month in jail, respectively.

The court proved the existence of a corruptive pact between Manuel Pinho and Ricardo Salgado between 2005 and 2009, with a view to defending and promoting the interests of the Espírito Santo Group (GES) while the former was in government.

In an abridged reading of the 700-page judgement, the presiding judge also stressed that Manuel Pinho and Alexandra Pinho received around €4.9 million as part of the quid pro quo established in this agreement.

Manuel Pinho, who has been under house arrest since December 2021, was accused of passive corruption for an illegal act, passive corruption, money laundering and tax fraud.

His wife, Alexandra Pinho, was charged with money laundering and tax fraud – in material co-authorship with her husband – while former banker Ricardo Salgado was charged with active corruption for an unlawful act, active corruption and money laundering.

The defendents will appeal their sentences.

What is the EDP case about?

The EDP scandal involving banker Ricardo Salgado and former minister Manuel Pinho revolves around allegations of corruption, bribery, and illicit payments. At the core of the investigation are claims that Salgado, while leading Banco Espírito Santo (BES), made illegal payments to Pinho in exchange for political favors benefiting the energy company Energias de Portugal (EDP).

Here are the key details of the case:

  1. Bribery Allegations: Ricardo Salgado is accused of making substantial payments to Manuel Pinho during and after his tenure as Portugal's Minister of Economy (2005-2009). These payments are believed to have been made to secure favorable decisions for EDP, particularly concerning regulatory and policy measures that would benefit the company.

  2. Financial Transfers: It is alleged that Pinho received funds through offshore accounts and other indirect means to conceal the transactions. These payments reportedly continued even after Pinho left his ministerial position, raising suspicions of continued influence peddling.

  3. Policy Decisions: During Pinho's term as Minister of Economy, several policy decisions and regulatory changes were made that were advantageous to EDP. Investigators are probing whether these decisions were influenced by the payments from Salgado, thus constituting acts of corruption and abuse of power.

  4. Broader Implications: The scandal has broader implications for the intersection of politics and business in Portugal. It highlights concerns about the influence of powerful financial figures like Salgado on political decision-making processes and the potential for systemic corruption.

The investigation is part of a wider effort by Portuguese authorities to address corruption and financial misconduct, following the collapse of BES and the various illegal activities associated with its leadership. Both Salgado and Pinho have faced legal scrutiny and public condemnation as the case unfolds, shedding light on the corrupt practices that have undermined trust in Portugal's political and financial institutions.

Who is Ricardo Salgado?

Portuguese banker Ricardo Salgado earned the moniker "the owner of all this" due to his immense influence and power within Portugal's financial and political spheres. As the head of Banco Espírito Santo (BES), one of Portugal's largest and most significant banks, Salgado wielded substantial control over the country's economy.

His influence extended beyond banking, as BES was involved in various sectors, including media, real estate, and energy. This vast network of interests and the ability to make significant decisions impacting multiple industries contributed to the perception of Salgado as a dominant figure in Portuguese society.

Furthermore, Salgado's connections with prominent political figures and his role in major financial decisions gave him a reputation for being an almost omnipotent force within the country.

The phrase "the owner of all this" encapsulates the idea that Salgado had a hand in nearly every aspect of Portuguese business and politics. However, his fall from grace was dramatic, as he faced numerous legal issues related to financial irregularities and corruption, culminating in the collapse of BES in 2014.

This downfall highlighted the risks and consequences of concentrated power within a single individual and institution.

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