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Portugal’s ex-PM back before judge in corruption case

Portugal’s former prime minister Jose Socrates answered questions before a judge for some three hours Monday after his shock arrest last week in connection with a tax fraud probe, his lawyer said.

Socrates, 57, first went before a judge Saturday in the tax fraud, corruption and money laundering investigation. He has been detained since his arrest on Friday at Lisbon airport after arriving on a flight from Paris.

His attorney, Joao Araujo, had said Socrates would “of course” answer questions from examining magistrate Carlos Alexandre on money transfers and banking operations that have fallen under suspicion.

Socrates must await a decision from the judge in Lisbon over whether he will continue to be held.

The centre-right government has remained discreet about the case. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said Sunday it “pertains to the law and not politics,” adding “Portugal has strong institutions that work.”

But Socrates’ arrest was the latest bombshell in Portuguese politics, coming hard on the heels of another scandal that cost Interior Minister Miguel Macedo his job.

A series of searches have been carried out at businesses and Socrates’ residence in Lisbon.

According to Portuguese media reports, Portuguese state-owned bank Caixa Geral de Depositos raised the alarm.

Investigators have been looking into transfers involving the former Socialist leader’s account in comparison with earnings he has reported to tax authorities.

Particular attention is said to have been given to an apartment in Paris estimated at nearly three million euros ($3.7 million). Socrates lived there in 2012 while studying philosophy in the French capital.

Socrates was prime minister between 2005 and 2011, with his tenure particularly marked by the financial crisis that badly hit the country.