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Banking and Insurance

Former president of BESA Álvaro Sobrinho appropriated millions diverted from BES

Former Portuguese-Angolan banker Álvaro Sobrinho illegally handled and benefited from more than 9.3 million euros obtained by misappropriating BES funds in BESA's "cleaning" accounts, according to the Portuguese Public Ministry.

: Expresso

This is one of the many points of the accusation by the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCIAP) against the former president of BESA Álvaro Sobrinho in a case in which the former director of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA) Hélder Bataglia, as well as the former president of BES Ricardo Salgado and the former directors Amílcar Pires and Rui Silveira.

In this investigation, charges were brought against five members of the Board of Directors of BESA and BES, for the practice of aggravated breach of trust, qualified fraud and aggravated money laundering, for facts that occurred between 2007 and July 2014.

The indictment concerns the granting of financing by BES to BESA, in lines of credit from the Interbank Monetary Market (MMI) and in a bank overdraft. As a result of this criminal activity, as at 31 July 2014, BES was exposed to BESA in the amount of close to 4.8 billion euros.

The benefits arising from the practice of the crimes indicted, in this investigation, are accounted for in the global amounts of 5,048,178,856.09 euros and 210,263,978.84 US dollars, concludes the indictment.

According to the DCIAP, in addition to "the amounts improperly debited from BESA's accounts domiciled at BES, in Lisbon, to credit accounts of corporate structures that worked for his personal benefit, Álvaro Sobrinho also used the liquidity available in those two accounts on several occasions to cover the payment of expenses in the acquisition of goods and in the direct financing of the activity of other companies held by them".

"The accused acted freely, deliberately and consciously. The accused knew that his conduct was prohibited and punished by criminal law", says the indictment, to which the Lusa agency had access.

According to the case file, Álvaro Sobrinho acted, throughout the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, ordering the employees of the Operations Department of BESA to carry out international bank transfers, by debiting bank accounts held by BESA at BES, in Lisbon (...), thus managing to move the funds available in those bank accounts, as if they were their own, appropriating those same funds".

"The defendant managed to move and benefit from a total of 9,330,857.63 euros, obtained through the misappropriation of funds made available by BES in BESA's 'clearing' accounts", imputes the MP.

Defendant Álvaro Sobrinho acted "knowing the illicit origin of those funds and aiming to use them for his benefit, hiding their origin, through the interposition of entities and bank accounts under his control, in Swiss and Portuguese territory, aiming prevent the illicit origin of the same from being discovered, thus avoiding being criminally prosecuted for the illicit appropriation of such amounts".

The MP also concluded that Ricardo Salgado and Amílcar Pires acted "in common efforts, aiming to maintain the financing of BESA (...) in amounts that they well knew would be difficult, if not impossible, to recover for BES, not only by virtue of the serious financial difficulties that BESA was experiencing, such as the risk that the Sovereign Autonomous Guarantee could not cover amounts owed to the bank, resulting from the practice of criminally punishable acts, related to funds diverted by the former CEO of the Angolan branch (Álvaro Sobrinho) , should such facts become public".

Former BES director Rui Silveira "knew the real state of BESA's loan portfolio and the vicissitudes that involved it, by virtue of his participation in the preparation of BESA's General Meeting (AG) held in October 2013, in the drafting of the minutes thereof and in official letters later addressed to the President of the Republic of Angola and to the National Bank of Angola (BNA), referring to the situation encountered" at BESA.

"As a director with a seat on the Executive Committee of BES, Rui Silveira did not act in accordance" with his functional duties and with the information transmitted to Ricardo Salgado and Morais Pires, "omitting to the other elements of the Executive Committee, the facts that he knew about the BESA's credit portfolio and suspicions of criminal offenses on the basis of the high level of non-compliance that had been detected".

There was, therefore, a "clear violation of his duties as a director of BES", and the defendant decided to remain silent, hiding the facts from the other directors, the external auditor and the supervisor, allowing, with his conduct, "that the defendants Ricardo Salgado and Amílcar Pires continued with their criminal plans to continue funding BESA, to the detriment of the interests of the BES shareholder".

The MP understood that the defendants acted knowing that the Angolan subsidiary was in a serious financial situation, "which predicted that the institution would not be able to meet the value of future liabilities contracted with BES, thus allowing BESA to continued to benefit from liquidity transfers on the money market and bank overdrafts on its clearing accounts, without opposition from the other directors of BES, to the detriment of the bank's interests".

"It is possible to see that they successively developed behaviors aimed at preventing internal and external regulation from putting an end to the anomalous way in which they worked".

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