Former Socialist Minister Armando Vara starts five year jail sentence
Former socialist minister Armando Vara has surrendered himself to the tender ministrations of Évora jail to start his five-year sentence.
Vara had been convicted of three charges of trafficking of influence in the long-running Face Oculta trial.
Vara today presented himself to Évora Prison, accompanied by his lawyer, Tiago Rodrigues Bastos. Both were faced with a barrage of questions from journalists.
“This is a difficult time,” said Vara to insistent reporters, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already said everything there is to say about it.”
After leaving his client at the jail entrance, Bastos made a few comments to the media.
“This is not a happy day in the career of a lawyer,” said Vara’s brief, omitting to mention also that it was not such a good day for his client, while generally lamenting the media circus surrounding Vara’s entrance.
Évora jail is hardly Sing Sing. It was built to hold a mere 35 inmates. According to the prison service, the jail held 41 inmates as of Monday.
The unit is intended for prisoners who have held positions in the security forces or in the services or those in need of special protection, such as the former Prime Minister José Sócrates, who was detained there for just over nine months.
All the cells have toilet facilities, there’s a bar, cafeteria, social room, medical unit, library and multipurpose room for training purposes. There’s also a small gym equipped with weight machines and an outdoor area for sports activities.
Vara was sentenced in September 2014 by a panel of judges in Aveiro. This sentence was confirmed in April 2017, by the Court of Appeal of Porto.
Vara’s defence team tried to appeal to the Constitutional Court, but twice the Court refused to rule on the issues raised. The final decision was taken at the end of November 2018 and in mid-December last year, Vara’s conviction became final.
In the Face Oculta case, it was proved that, at the request of the scrap metal merchant Manuel Godinho, Vara exerted influence with Mário Lino, a former Minister of Public Works, to remove Secretary of State Ana Paula Vitorino and the chairman of the Board of Administration of the ‘Rede Ferroviária Nacional,’ Luís Pardal, with whom the businessman had a dispute.
Vara received €25,000 and several gifts.
It was also proven that Vara, a former socialist minister, introduced Paiva Nunes, the director of EDP Imobiliária, to the scrap metal king. Paiva Nunes then favored Manuel Godinho in various deals in exchange for a top-of-the-range Mercedes.
Vara is the first big name to jailed this year, a year in which various top level cases will start, continue or conclude.
João Tavares, another convicted in the Face Oculta trial, also today surrendered himself, to the GNR in Vendas Novas in the Évora district, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Ana Vilhena said that her client now will be transported to the prison in Montijo or Setúbal, where he will serve his sentence.
João Tavares, a former Petrogal employee, was sentenced by the Aveiro Court to five years and nine months in prison for receiving €12,500 from Manuel Godinho to “facilitate” a waste contract at the Sines refinery.
In addition to João Tavares and Armando Vara, Manuel Guiomar is expected to enter jail in the coming days.
The tedious cry of ‘Portugal is so corrupt’ can be countered by the observation that investigations are being carried out, top names are being brought to trial and more people will be jailed.Yes, there is corruption but there also are trials and convictions.
There is corruption wherever there is commerce and politics; the skill is to identify what is going on and for the Public Prosecution service to be well funded and filled with clever, honest people.
On the minus side, the court system remains lamentably slow with cases taking years to be heard and endless appeals ensuring many of those convicted remain at extended liberty, ‘pending appeal.’ Vara has spent four and a quarter years on the appeal circuit – had he gone to jail on conviction, he would be out in nine months.