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Portugals spy who came in from the cold

Published on 06/06/2012

The Portuguese secret service is in turmoil after a former intelligence director was charged with spying on major economic and political players on behalf of his new employer. Featuring corruption, state secrets and Freemasonry, this is no ordinary scandal.

Jorge Silva Carvalho is a Portuguese former spy who was in charge of the countrys external intelligence services from 2008 until 2011. Well-connected and ambitious, Carvalho had dreamed of one day being appointed interior minister. But instead he was seduced, in 2011, by a better job: internal agent at a private company, Ongoing, a media outlet run by Nuno Vasconcelos with Angolan capital.

But the former spy is now in the eye of the hurricane, after public prosecutors charged him with abusing his position, corruption and violating state secrets. According to those charges, Carvalho, after signing a lucrative contract with Ongoing, used his connections within the Portuguese secret services to obtain reports about prominent entrepreneurs, politicians and journalists.

According to the prosecution, Silva Carvalho maintained a large network of interests and connections with his former team. From time to time, using mostly SMS messages, he would ask former colleagues to investigate individuals who were about to do business with Ongoing. The first such case to be revealed was a report on Nuno Simas, a political reporter at Pblico newspaper. Carvalho asked mobile phone operator Optimus, through a female friend, for a full report on Simass calls, in an effort to ascertain whether the journalist was trustworthy. And Carvalho kept going. Over the following months reports were written about, among others, Francisco Balsemo, a former prime minister and owner of rival media group Impresa; and also Ricardo Costa, editor-in-chief of Expresso, the largest newspaper in Portugal.

Silva Carvalhos story has been leaked to several major newspapers and, in a dramatic development, it also involves deputy prime minister Miguel Relvas.

Known to be the chief strategist in the current Portuguese government, Relvas is said to maintain a close relationship with Carvalho. Relvas denied all when he was first questioned by Congress members in an open session of the Portuguese parliament, insisting he just knew Silva Carvalho from social events. But days later he was corrected by the press. Relvas had met Carvalho several times when they were about to do business, between Ongoing and the deputy prime ministers former company, Finertec, also funded by Angolan money.

When grilled again by the Portuguese parliament, it took Relvas three hours to admit he had forgotten those meetings and that he was sorry not to have told the entire truth.

Personal and intimate details

Relvas is now in the line of fire. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a former leader of Relvass PSD party and the most influential opinion-maker in Portugal, has said that the deputy prime minister should step down. But Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho says he doesn’t see any reason for Relvas to resign. He did nothing wrong, he has said.

The connection between Relvas and Silva Carvalho was about to be exposed by Pblico newspaper. But, when asked about it by the investigating journalists, Relvas threatened to expose personal and intimate details about their lives if the news came out. The details in question were that the reporter in charge of the investigation lives with an opposition party member.

Relvas is now facing charges of abuse of power from the National Communications Authority ERC.

Further intrigue has been added with the revelations of links between those involved and the Freemasons. It has been revealed that the spy Silva Carvalho is a member of the shadowy Mozart’s Lodge, as is his boss Nuno Vasconcelos and the PSD’s parliamentary speaker, Luis Montenegro. The trio, as reported by Expresso newspaper, pressed Relvas to make senior appointments in the Portuguese secret services, although the minister did not play along.

The turmoil does not end there. Now, public prosecutors and a parliamentary commission are investigating whether Carvalho had access to secret service classified information after he left and if any of it was used to benefit Ongoing. The opposition Socialists and Communists are asking for a full rebooting of Portugals intelligence agencies, which according to media reports, contain dozens of Freemasons who could be jeopardizing state security.

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