Edward and Sophie, Portugal's PM… and a £4m corruption row over giant shopping mall built by British firm

Do «Daily Mail»:

«The Earl and Countess of Wessex have been caught up in an alleged corruption scandal surrounding a discount shopping complex in Portugal.
It was built by a British property firm Freeport, now being investigated over bribery allegations, and was opened by the Royal couple in September 2004.
The Serious Fraud Office in London is probing claims that four million euros were transferred to banks in Portugal to facilitate the deal.
The inquiry has engulfed several British businessmen and Portugal’s Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who has denied taking bribes from Freeport.
At its heart is the claim that in 2002 Mr Socrates, then an environment minister, waived restrictions to grant Freeport a licence to build the complex on protected land.
But Mr Socrates insists he has never misused his ministerial position.
The shopping mall is sited across the Tagus river from Lisbon and includes 200 ‘factory outlets’ selling mainly cut-price designer clothes.
Reports in Portugal claim SFO detectives, who have been working closely with Portuguese police, are investigating 15 people linked to the development, including Mr Socrates and several Britons associated with Freeport.
One is said to be the company’s flamboyant 66-year-old founder Sean Collidge, a wealthy tax exile, who was forced to quit as chairman in 2006.
He then lost a £1 million claim for wrongful dismissal, during which his fellow directors accused him of financial impropriety and submitting a series of fraudulent expense claims.
Ruling against him, a High Court judge said in 2007 that he had ‘dishonestly’ and ‘habitually’ abused his position. Court documents also accused him of forgery, perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Mr Justice Jack said Collidge had fiddled thousands of pounds of expenses between 2003 and 2005, taken property from the firm and forged loan agreements.
Mr Collidge approached Edward and Sophie to open the mall because, according to a former Freeport director, ‘he had heard that they helped British investors abroad’.
Even at this stage the development was controversial due to environmental concerns. But the Foreign Office advised Edward to go ahead. The opening was followed by a Tom Jones concert and a huge fireworks display.
Freeport has since been taken over by The Carlyle Group, a US conglomerate, and Mr Collidge now lives in splendour near Cannes in the south of France. He was unavailable for comment last night.
Former Freeport director Jonathan Rawnsley was interviewed by the SFO but said ‘it came to nothing’.
He added: ‘Freeport absolutely did not bribe anyone – that was a rumour put about by our competitors.
‘Sean Collidge heard that Edward had an ambassadorial business role and often helped British investors abroad. Sean approached him and he agreed to lend his name to the company and open the business in Portugal.»



  1. Lá está. É tudo uma questão de concorrência.

  2. Luis Moreira says:

    Aqui é que se pode dizer que há uma mão ínvisivel.Enfim, é mais uma “mãozinha” mas tudo aponta que há muita coisa para explicar.A primeira explicação era dizerem-me, como se eu fosse muito burro, como é que um investimento daquela dimensão (entre 25 e 30 milhões de contos) se recupera.Já lá foram durante a semana?Viram as multidões?Eu já lá fui de propósito e não vejo gente que compre, nem mesmo que não compre.Enfim, é preciso ter os livros e saber coisas que não é para todos!Só as salas de cinema são 12 (16?).Uma hipótese que já me ocorreu é possam estar a distribuir ingressos por cada carro que passe na Vasco da Gama! Digo,eu!