Corrupt Brazilian tycoon among applicants for Portugal’s golden visas

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Leaked documents also show relatives of an Angolan politician accused of bribery bought access to Europe via Portugal

Business executives implicated in a Brazilian corruption scandal and relatives of an Angolan politician who has been accused of bribery have secretly bought access to Europe via the government of Portugal.

A businessman sentenced to 18 years under house arrest and the former president of a scandal-ridden construction conglomerate are also among those named in a leaked document as having paid hundreds of thousands of euros in their pursuit of a golden visa in Portugal.

The news follows another leak that showed Russian oligarchs and a Syrian businessman under US sanctions were among hundreds of investors granted citizenship from Cyprus in exchange for cash investment.

The two leaks offer a detailed insight into golden visa schemes, whereby countries trade passports, citizenship or visas for investment from wealthy individuals.

Portugals golden resident permit programme requires investors to place 500,000 (440,000) in property in exchange for permanent residency. After five years, residency can be converted to citizenship, granting investors the right to live and work throughout Europe under EU rules.

According to the government, 66% of the golden visas issued since 2012 have been to Chinese applicants, despite it being illegal in China to transfer more than $50,000 out of the country in a single year.

For more than two years, Brazil has been racked with scandal resulting from Operation Car Wash, a judicial investigation into a vast network of bribery and corruption permeating the highest levels of public life.

The investigation centres on billions of dollars of corrupt contracts involving the state oil company Petrobras. Hundreds of politicians and businesspeople have been investigated and dozens have been convicted.

Otvio Azevedo. Photograph: Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters

One of them is Otvio Azevedo, the former president of the countrys second-largest construction company, Andrade Gutierrez. He received an 18-year sentence last year after admitting a string of corruption offences.

Two years before his arrest, Azevedo bought a 1.4m property in Lisbon and subsequently applied for a golden visa in 2014.

A spokesperson for Azevedo said he was yet to be informed as to whether his application had been accepted. They said he had acquired the property in full compliance with Portuguese law and that a plea deal he had signed with Brazilian prosecutors had helped to uncover numerous other instances of corruption.

Srgio Lins Andrade, the chairman and main shareholder of Andrade Gutierrez, acquired a Lisbon property through the golden visa scheme in 2014 for 665,000. He is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.5bn (1.1bn).

A spokesperson for Andrade, who earlier this year was summoned to give evidence to the corruption investigation, did not dispute that he had acquired Portuguese residency, but said he did not live in Portugal and had no plans to do so.

Pedro Novis, the former president and CEO of Odebrecht, South Americas largest construction firm, acquired a 1.7m Lisbon property in 2014. The company has been accused of multiple corruption offences across Latin America.

A spokesman for Novis said: He has nothing to declare and the information concerning his activities in Portugal is known by the Brazilian courts.

Others named in the document are relatives ofthe Angolan vice-president, Manuel Vicente, who until 2012 was the chief executive of the countrys state energy firm, Sonangol.

Vicente, once tipped to be the next Angolan president, this year faced allegations that he tried to bribe a Portuguese magistrate in order to suppress an investigation into corruption at Sonangol.

A lawyer for Vicente said he had no comment other than to deny the allegations of the Portuguese authorities.

Other recipients of golden visas named in the leaked document include:

  • Carlos Pires Oliveira Dias, the vice-president of the Camargo Correa construction group, invested 1.5m in Portugal under the golden resident programme in 2014. Camargo Correa has also been linked to the Car Wash scandal, reportedly repaying 700m reais (168m) to state companies in compensation for corrupt practices. The company was reported to be seeking a plea deal this year. Oliveira Dias confirmed that he had obtained a golden visa.
  • Jos Mauricio Caldeira sits on the board of the holding company behind Asperbras, a Brazilian conglomerate with interests in sectors from geology to agribusiness. A police investigation, Operation Atlantic Route, is examining the firms relationship with Jos Veiga, a businessman arrested last year on suspicion of corruption offences. A spokesperson for Caldeira confirmed that he acquired a Portuguese apartment in 2014 for 1m under the countrys golden visa programme and had since taken up residence there. They said both he and shareholders of Asperbras were cooperating fully with investigators.
  • Joo Manuel Ingls is an Angolan colonel and aide to Gen Manuel Helder Vieira Dias, better known as Kopelipa, head of the Angolan military and one of the most powerful figures in Angola. Ingls, who was accused in a US class action lawsuit of being a figurehead for Kopelipa and two other Angolan ruling figures, applied for a Portuguese golden visa in 2013. He did not respond to requests for comment.
  • Pedro Sebastio Teta, the Angolan secretary of state for IT, applied for a golden visa in 2013. The following year he was reported to own 30% of a company called Impulso Angola, which was awarded a contract by the government to map the countrys mineral resources. He did not respond to requests for comment.
  • Sebastio Gaspar Martins,the executive director of Sonangols Brazilian arm, sought a Portuguese golden visa in 2014. He has been cited as a possible successor to Vicente as vice-president. Martins declined to comment on the golden visa.
  • Another applicant was Mir Jamal Pashayev, the head of one of Azerbaijans most powerful families and the director of Pasha Holding. Pashayevs niece is Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev. Neither Pashayev nor Pasha Holding responded to repeated requests for comment.

That individuals implicated in corruption have secured golden visas through property purchases will raise particular concern among financial crime experts. Real estate has long been attractive to criminals due to the potential to launder large quantities of cash in a single transaction.

Portugals golden visa scheme has previously been at the centre of scandal. In 2014 police arrested 11 people as part of Operation Labyrinth, an investigation into allegations that foreigners had been issued with golden visas in exchange for bribes.

The head of the border agency and the president of the Institute of Registries and Notaries were among those detained and the scheme was briefly closed down. A former minister of the interior was subsequently designated a suspect in the investigation. He denies wrongdoing.

In a statement, the government of Portugal said its golden visa scheme strictly follows all legally established security procedures and that authorities had adequate tools which safeguard lawfulness and security.

All applications are subject to review following an evaluation process, by means of criminal records and consultation of national and international databases, as well as the exchange of information in the framework of police cooperation, it said.

Additional reporting by Stelios Orphanides.

This article was developed with the support of the Journalism Fund.

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