A building, sold to the Municipality of Albufeira for 1.7 million euros, but which had been officially purchased, months before, for 825 thousand euros. This has been revealed as the main line of investigation of “Operation Emporium” that is carrying out searches in the Algarve municipality due to suspicions of corruption and tax fraud, according to the Jornal de Notícias (JN) newspaper.
The national newspaper reported that the building, located in downtown Albufeira, was “intended for social housing”, despite being “licensed for offices”. According to the information collected by the JN, the property was “sold to one of the individuals under investigation”, for 825 thousand euros. This individual is businessman António Colaço, president of Albufeira-based Ferreiras FC. Only, 10 months later, it is suspected that the same building was acquired by the Council for more than double the original price: 1.7 million euros.
In this sense, José Carlos Rolo, mayor of the municipality, has already been included in the investigation due to his role in this suspicious transaction. The JN also explained the alleged involvement of Paulo Freitas, a member of the Municipal Assembly in this Operation “Emporium”. Mr. Freitas is suspected of “using political influences to force favourable decisions” on a 40-hectare plot in the municipality, and the construction of a bar in Praia dos Tomates, which he owns. This whole investigative process began on Wednesday, March 4th, with home searches, as well as non-home searches, in the Albufeira Council building, and in two companies in Lisbon and Leiria, as well as in a law firm.
At issue are “suspicions of crimes of passive and active corruption, economic participation in business, tax fraud, malfeasance and abuse of power”, as explained by the Judiciary Police (PJ) yesterday. A note from the Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday revealed that there were also searches at the headquarters of “a sports club”, assumedly Ferreiras FC, as well as at the Municipal Assembly. The investigations involved 40 investigators and experts from the Judiciary Police.
On the part of the municipality themselves, the only comment on the investigation has come in a note sent to the newsrooms directly from the Council, led by the PSD party, revealinh its “total availability” to collaborate.
The Albufeira division of the Socialist Party reacted today, expressing “their sadness at the negative publicity that the whole situation brings to the county”, also highlighting that, “until proven otherwise, everyone is innocent”.
Contacted by local newspaper Sul Informação, a source from the Attorney General’s Office said that the searches were carried out “as part of an investigation conducted by the Public Ministry’s Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DIAP).”