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Eurojust credibility is at risk

Eurojust was established to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the Member States competent judicial authorities when investigating and prosecuting “serious cross border crime, particularly in the case of organized crime.” In 2002, when Eurojust was created, José Luís Lopes da Mota was transferred to Hague as Portugal's representative to Eurojust. He has been the Eurojust president since November 2007.

Eurojust credibility and independence is at risk as its president, Lopes da Mota, is involved in a corruption case. Lopes da Mota allegedly applied pressure on Vítor Magalhães and Paes Faria, the two magistrates who are conducting the so called Freeport case investigation. It has emerged that Lopes da Mota applying pressure on the magistrates even explained that technically it was possible to file the Freeport investigation.

Lopes da Mota allegedly invoked the name of the Portuguese Prime-Minister, Jose Sócrates and of the current Justice Minister, Alberto Costa, and suggested the filling of the facts that relate Jose Sócrates to the case. He allegedly said that the Prime Minister wants this “quickly decided” and added that he had been with Alberto Coast to whom Sócrates would have said that if the PS does not have the absolute majority this would have been because of the Freeport case.

The Freeport case concerns alleged suspicion of corruption and traffic of influences in the licensing of the commercial centre Freeport of Alcochete, in 2002, when the current Portuguese Prime Minister, Jose Sócrates, was minister of the Environment and allegedly allowed the Freeport construction on protected area in exchange of bribes. Presently, the process has two defendants Charles Smith and his partner in the consultancy company, Manuel Pedro, who had served of intermediate in the business of the commercial space. They are suspected of having been the intermediate on the payment of bribes to Portuguese politicians.

The two prosecutors had denounced the case and an inquiry was opened. Vítor Santos Silva, the magistrate that conducted the inquiry has concluded that the names of Jose Sócrates and Alberto Coast had been used by Lopes da Mota to pressure the abovementioned prosecutors. The General Prosecutor, Pinto Monteiro, has therefore decided to open a disciplinary procedure.

Another issue is whether or not the Justice Minister Alberto Costa was also involved nevertheless Lopes da Mota is the only suspected of trying to influence the Freeport investigation.

Lopes da Mota behaviour is completely contrary to the ethics and deontology of a magistrate as he allegedly spoke to the people investigating a case trying to influence the result of a criminal inquiry in course.

There is a general silence at the EU level but the case it is too serious to be ignored.

At the beginning of April, when the alleged pressures by Lopes da Mota on the magistrates had become known, the Eurojust’s president has denied such allegations but he has confirmed to have had some meeting with the investigators. He said “Obviously that I have kept contact with the process prosecutors, this is one of my functions while president of the Eurojust (…).”

The President represents Eurojust, it calls and presides over the meetings of the College, moderate the debates and oversee the execution of the decisions adopted.

Lopes da Mota has allegedly interfere with the investigation of a case which, in fact, had been referred to Eurojust to improve cooperation in the investigations between Portuguese and British authorities.

The General Prosecutor, Pinto Monteiro, has recently announced that he has given instructions, since the launched of the inquiry on the alleged pressures, that all endeavours that imply international judiciary cooperation in the Freeport case to be done without the intervention of the Eurojust. However, the Eurojust has said that it has finished mediating the investigations between Portuguese and British authorities in the Freeport case on 23 April.

The Portuguese authorities have been therefore contacting directly the British authorities, outside the Eurojust framework. It should be recall that Eurojust was mainly created to prevent these bilateral contacts between the EU Member States and to promote multilateral contribution deemed to be more efficient and adequate to combat transnational crime.

The Rules of Procedure of Eurojust only foresee the substitution of its president, when he is replaced by a Member State during the exercise of his office or in the case of resignation or death.

Lopes da Mota should have suspended his functions at Eurojust at least until the conclusion of the disciplinary procedure.

The Portuguese Government is refusing to take a position. The General Prosecutor has said that is still too early to decide whether or not Lopes da Mota should continue to be the Portuguese representative at Eurojust. The National Member for Portugal at the Eurojust is nominated by the Ministers of the Foreign affairs and Justice, under proposal of the General Prosecutor. However, the government cannot discard its responsibilities since it is responsible for the nomination of Lopes da Mota.

Eventually, Lopes da Mota would have to be replaced by someone else as Portugal's representative to Eurojust.

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ABOUT BILL CASH MP

Bill Cash has been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stone since 1997 and an MP since 1984.

He is currently the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the founder member of the European Foundation...

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