Monday, July 26, 2021

Portugal ex-minister Armando Vara sentenced to two years in prison for money laundering

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The former minister and former director of Caixa Geral de Depósitos bank, Armando Vara has been sentenced on Tuesday to an effective sentence of two years in prison for the crime of money laundering.

Reading the judgment at the Lisbon Criminal Court, the president of the panel of judges, Rui Coelho, recalled that Armando Vara “exercised the highest public functions” and was on the board of two banking institutions.

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“It was the defendant’s moral duty to act differently, and the level of censure is high. It is also necessary to consider the very high degree of illegality” in a scheme set up for the movement of money, stressing there is only one “obvious answer: hide the money”, stressed the judge.

Rui Coelho said that “in the light of the information gathered and of experience it is not difficult to understand the motivation of the accused with the circulation of cash through third parties to then enter the accounts of offshore companies to ensure that the money was not detected by the Tax Authority”.

On the justification for the effective sentence of two years given to Armando Vara, the judge considered it necessary to give “a clear sign of strength to internalise” the law.

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In its final arguments, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) had asked for the conviction of Armando Vara, also a former member of parliament, to an effective sentence of close to three years in prison for a crime of money laundering.

The MP highlighed the relevance of the testimonial evidence provided by the wealth manager Michel Canals and the inspector Paulo Silva on the complex financial circuit of accounts in Switzerland and ‘offshores’ of which the defendant was the true beneficiary.

The MP stressed that about two million euros were transferred to a Swiss account in the name of the offshore company Vama, of which Armando Vara was the ultimate beneficiary, and recalled that the defendant when questioned by the criminal investigation judge, 2009, “admitted ownership of all the accounts” and admitted having committed tax fraud before the tax authority.

Vara, 67, is serving a five-year prison sentence as part of the Face Oculta case, in which he was convicted of influence peddling.

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