Golden Visa lawyer accused of stealing €10 million of clients’ funds
Foreign buyers of Portuguese property, keen to obtain a Golden Visa, believed that Maria Antónia Cameira was just the sort of lawyer to solve their problems and smooth the way.
Brazilians, South Africans, Chinese and others, entrusted the ‘go-to’ lawyer with their money to buy properties for a minimum of €500,000 as part of their Golden Visa application process.
Maria Antónia Cameira, who has been in preventive custody since last July, decided that her own self-interest was a more enticing path and purchased the properties in her own name, using her clients’ funds. She later forged documents to make it appear that the foreign applicants had purchased prime real estate.
The Public Prosecution Office has accused the lawyer of a deception and the forgery of documents.
The lawyer’s activities were not unexpected as this is not the first time she has been in trouble. In the UK she was convicted in 2012 of pinching £300,000 from a client. She used the money to pay off her debts and further fund a luxury lifestyle.
Dra Cameira fled the UK before her trial was over. She was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to six years at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The lawyer claimed she had paid back the money and requested a re-trial. An arrest warrant was issued in the UK but has never been actioned.
This serious conviction and escape from justice did not interfere with her rigorous schedule as a lawyer, travelling to sign up Golden Visa clients in South Africa and China, gaining their trust and stealing their money, over €10 million of it.
The enterprising crook advertised on the Internet, made agreements with real estate agencies and travelled widely to make contact with potential clients.
Overseas Golden Visa applicants used Cameira’s company, ‘Cameiro Legal’, which purported to specialise in ‘Business Immigration’ and when visiting Portugal were whisked from the airport by limo to top hotels and generally treated like ‘A List’ celebrities before being taken to visit luxury homes so they could select which one they wanted to buy.
According to the District Attorney General of Lisbon, from 2014 the defendant “drew up a plan, using a law firm, of which she was a legal representative, to promote their legal services as well as the acquisition of real estate properties.”
As part of her decepion, money for real estate purchases was obtained from clients and, instead of signing the escrituras on behalf of clients, the defendant registered the properties in her own name, later forging information submitted to the SEF to make it look like the applicants had bought the qualifying properties.
The complaints started to roll in which interested the National Anti-Corruption Unit of the Judicial Police, whose officers located the lawyer, arrested her and raided her home and rather plush offices.
Barring any last minute hitches, the long-awaited trial of Dra Maria Antónia Cameira shortly will start in Lisbon, to the cheery delight of those she stole from.