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Major admits to food invoicing scam in Air Force messes

Published on 07/01/2019

A major has described to a Sintra court how a long-running scam by those running Portuguese Air Force messes involved kickbacks from food suppliers that later were distributed by those personnel involved, including high-ranking officers.

Rogério Martinho, currently a major in the reserve, was the first defendant to testify at the trial resulting from Operation Zeus that has called 68 defendants, 30 of whom are in the military. A further 38 defendants are individuals or civilians working for suppliers.


The officer is accused of receiving €60,000 from a meat supplier, as are sergeants António Gouveia and António Paulo, during the three years in which they worked at the Sintra air base.

Food supplies to the mess and to an Armed Forces Hospital, were over-invoiced, with personnel later receiving money and gifts from the companies involved, depending on how deeply involved in the scam each had been.

In a day characterised by finger pointing and claims that the scam was nothing new, the court heard that the fraudulent scheme was running smoothly in the Air Force, “twenty or thirty years ago,” continued unchecked and that there had been, “a lack of control and oversight,” on the part of the Air Force internal audit services.

Food has been overpriced by between 20% and 50%, with the cash delivered by suppliers and passed up the chain of command.

Rogério Martinho said he had often thought about denouncing the fraudulent scheme, but did not do so because he felt trapped, since he also had received money.

Those accused, worked at Air Bases and military facilities in Sintra, Lajes (Azores), Montijo, Beja, Alenquer, Monsanto (Lisbon), Alcochete, Alfragide, Figo Maduro (Loures) and Alverca.