July 28, 2021

Operation Marquis. How Armando Vara sent 1.6 million euros in cash to Switzerland – Observer

He arrived at the appointed time, but had to wait more than half an hour to enter the room on the fifth floor of building A of Campus da Justiça, in Lisbon, to testify. Tax inspector Paulo Silva, who has been the right arm of the Public Ministry since 2005 to investigate cases such as Monte Branco and Operation Marquês, sat down in front of the panel of judges and began debiting dates and bank movements from Armando’s accounts Vara, in Switzerland, almost from memory. This Wednesday morning, he was the witness in the case born of Operation Marquis and whose only defendant is the former socialist minister and former leader of Caixa Geral de Depósitos. In July, Paulo Silva returns to court, before the same panel of judges, to give identical explanations regarding Ricardo Salgado, also to be tried in an autonomous process.

According to the Public Ministry, Armando Vara opened an account in Switzerland on behalf of the company offshore Vama, where he will have deposited more than two million euros that will not have been declared to the tax authorities. And part of that money, more specifically 1,613,661 million euros, was delivered in banknotes in Portugal.

“But how did the money get to Switzerland. It couldn’t be in a suitcase and cross all countries until then”, Paulo Silva began by questioning himself, and then answered. Judge Rui Coelho was careful to ask how he could know that answer. And the inspector explained that he understood it through the notes registered by the account manager of Portuguese clients at UBS, Michel Canals — which were sent by UBS by letter rogatory.

Is Armando Vara’s trial supersonic?

After all, the manager met with Vara at least 11 times to give him money. The first was at the Hotel Campo Grande, in Lisbon, in December 2005, months after an account was created in Switzerland in the name of offshore Vama Holdings, whose beneficiary was Armando Vara’s daughter, Barbara, while he would be her attorney. In the indictment, Ivo Rosa considered that the former governor chose to put his daughter’s name in that account because she lived abroad and had no tax obligations in Portugal.


In this first meeting, which will have taken place at 8 pm, Vara will have handed over more than 50 thousand euros in cash, to which Michel Canals would deduct a 1% commission, which meant that only 49,896.00 would enter the account. Now it was necessary for this money to enter the Swiss account without going through bank accounts in Portuguese territory.

Francisco Canas had a currency exchange shop in downtown Lisbon and transferred money four times to Vara, through Michel Canals, the manager of UBS

To this end, explained Paulo Silva, all UBS employees obeyed a rule: the money delivered did not leave Portugal and was managed according to other customers in reciprocal movements. In other words, if any Portuguese client with an account in Switzerland needed to withdraw that amount, it would be those bills that would be delivered to him. “We are talking about cash, but at UBS services we are talking about mere transfers”, he explained.

Therefore, although Vara only met with Canals 11 times to deliver money to him, in the account records this money was dispersed in 20 deposit movements, between 2005 and 2008. In addition to this form of compensation between customers, some of which by For example, they came from Horta and Costa, Canals found another system to bring money to UBS: Francisco Canas, who has since died, and who owned “Monte Negro e Chaves”, on Rua do Ouro, in Lisbon.

The first amount delivered by Vara to deposit in Vama’s account was delivered to Canas, who ordered the corresponding amount to leave his Swiss account. “Francisco Canas received the money here. The last two transfers in 2006 he already made from the BPN IFI, in Cape Verde, because he had problems in Switzerland and his account was closed at UBS” explained Paulo Silva. In total, Canas made four transfers to Vara.

In addition to the cash that ended up in Vama’s account, one million euros came from an account of Joaquim Barroca, administrator of the Lena Group, which in turn would have resulted from two million euros transferred by the Dutch citizen Van Doreen. In the indictment of the Marquis, the MP says that this money is paid to Vara, in exchange for a credit for financing in Vale do Lobo. But the panel of judges made a point of stressing in this session that this is not what is being judged in this case, but only the crime of money laundering.

Vara’s silence, the contaminated money and the request not to let “the mask fall off”. The first day of the trial of Operation Marquis

Inspector Paulo Silva could not understand the reasons, but said that Vama’s account suddenly closed in the last quarter of 2008 and that its values ​​were transferred to another account in the name of Walker Holdings. “This one was in Seychelles and not Panama, it was the only difference,” he says. The money went through other offshores such as Orsatti Corp., Zelo Holdings and Desrel Holdings. And part of the money arrived in Portugal to finance the acquisition of an apartment in Lisbon, leading Vara to now answer for the crime of whitening.

It is normal for money to circulate like this between offshore accounts, asked the judge Rui Coelho

It was extremely elaborate, it’s not traditional to spend that much, replied Paulo Silva

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the tax inspector, Vanda Godinho, to explain how the money arrived in Portugal to pay for the apartment. According to her, a company was created, Desrel, in the United Kingdom that would have an account at Barclays and where several thousand euros came from Vama. This company became a partner of a company created in Portugal, Citywide, headquartered at the law firm Ana Bruno e Associados.

Desrel started by transferring 25 thousand euros to the company’s capital, in 2008, and then transferred three more amounts in 2009 as loans for loans, as attested by bank statements that totaled 585 thousand euros, the amount it paid for a property. at Infante Santo, in Lisbon.

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This second trial session took place without the defendant, Armando Vara, who is serving a prison sentence in Évora for the Face Oculta case, for influence peddling, and who benefited from a three-day leave to be in person at the Justice Campus, in Lisbon, in the first session.

The former head of Caixa Geral de Depósitos had been accused of five crimes, including corruption, money laundering and tax fraud qualified by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but already in the investigation, judge Ivo Rosa decided to bring him to trial only for one crime of money laundering. capitals.

In the next session, which may be the last, defense witnesses will be heard: Edite Estrela, former mayor of Sintra and great friend of José Sócrates, Mota Andrade, former deputy and former president of the PS district in Bragança and Carlos Santos Ferreira, former leader of Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Banco Comercial Português who took Vara to the administration of those two banks.

Closing allegations may come in the afternoon.