Pedrogao Housing Trial: "Clean Hands" of 2 Ex-Officials
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
The Pedrogao Grande fire housing trial is looking for scapegoats, the defense lawyer said in his closing arguments on November 18.
Bruno Gomes, the former councilmember, “did not take any advantage from this process, not even a few cents,” said Attorney Victor Faria at the Judicial Court of Leiria, according to the Expresso (November 18).
“The objective was to effectively find a culprit in this procedure of rebuilding the houses,” said Faria, who underscored that the two ex-officials will come out of this process with “clean hands”.
The former municipality president, Valdemar Alves, and Bruno Gomes face 20 counts of dereliction of political office, 20 counts of document forgery and 20 counts of fraud in the process of reconstruction of houses after the June 2017 fire that destroyed 500 houses, including 261 permanent homes, wrecked 50 businesses, killed 66 and injured 253.
There are 26 other defendants on trial.
The prosecution had contended that only permanent houses were eligible for rebuild money from Revita, which funded people to rebuild after the fire.
“There was not one of those considered permanent homes that did not receive support from the fund,” said Vincent Faria, who maintained that there was “abundant money” and that non-permanent housing was not excluded from this process.
The attorney argued that the Revita rules create a “priority criterion” but do not exclude second homes.
He said that he was “fully convinced that there isn’t a single house that burned down that had no support”, that “all these people who are sitting here are entitled to support” and that there have been no reports of “little children and old people” homeless after the fire.
The lawyer for Bruno Gomes rejected any political motivation on the part of his client, pointing out that the former councilor rejected running in the 2017 municipal elections.
The lawyer for the ex-president of Pedrogao Grande, Valdemar Alves, said that “the house reconstruction processes were processes of the Revita fund; they were not administrative processes initiated by the local authority.”
“This process was born and died at the bottom of Revita; it has nothing to do with the local authority,” said Bolota Belchior, according to the Expresso.
The regulations of the Revita Fund were not published in Diario da Republica, said Belchior, according to Jornal de Noticias (November 18).
"No one is required to follow a regulation that is not published in the Diario da Republica, as it does not exist in the legal system.”
“There was money for permanent and non-permanent housing, and (the process) was conducted without pinching a legal norm”.
Jornal de Noticias reported: “In fact, there was always money for rebuilding the houses. Fernando Lopes (former president of Castanheira de Pera, who is another defendant) said that when he left, there was money to rebuild all the houses,” said Belchior, who added that the balance was 3.7 million euros in September 2021.
The trial began on October 26, 2020.