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Portuguese ex-minister questioned in ‘golden visa’ scandal

Portuguese prosecutors said Thursday they plan to charge former interior minister Miguel Macedo for his role in a money-laundering scandal linked to “golden” visas, which handed residency permits to wealthy foreigners.

The announcement came shortly after Portugal’s National Assembly decided to lift the parliamentary immunity Macedo enjoyed as a member of the centre-right government so he could be fully investigated for his role in the scandal.

“The prosecution has called for his immunity to be lifted so he can be indicted,” a spokesman for the state prosecutor told AFP without giving more details.

Macedo resigned in November after 11 people were arrested, including several senior officials suspected of artificially inflating the value of investments to help foreigners gain a special residence permit.

At the time, he disavowed any personal responsibility in the affair, but said the allegations had undermined his political credibility.

The “golden” visas scandal were the latest corruption bombshell to rock Portugal’s political elite, and came days after former prime minister Jose Socrates was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering.

Cash-strapped Portugal in October 2012 started offering “golden” visas to wealthy foreigners willing to invest 500,000 euros ($550,000) in property, make a capital transfer of one million euros or create 10 jobs.