Benfica’s legal chief charged in corruption probe

Lisbon (AFP) – Five people, including the head of Benfica’s legal department and a computer operator at the Portuguese Justice Ministry, have been charged in a corruption case involving the Lisbon club, the prosecutor said on Thursday.

“A total of five people have been indicted,” the Portuguese prosecutor said in a statement.

The Benfica official, Paulo Goncalves, is suspected of “crimes of active and passive corruption, breach of court confidentiality, computer fraud and patronage,” the Portuguese police said.

Benfica said, in a statement on their website, that they were confident Goncalves would be able to prove that he “acted lawfully” and said they were “totally available” to cooperate with the inquiry.

The computer technician, Jose Nogueira Silva, is suspected of accepting bribes, embezzlement or computer fraud and violation of court confidentiality. 

“This is excessive,” said his lawyer Paulo Gomes on leaving the court.

“In this country there are people who receive millions of euros in bribes and stay free. And this man goes to prison for receiving half a dozen tickets and a jersey.” 

Both men are being detained after their arrests on Tuesday.

According to Portuguese media, of the other three people charged, one works at the Ministry of  Justice, one used to, but is retired and the third is a player agent.

Local media reported that the case follows an anonymous tip accusing Benfica of gaining unauthorised access to ongoing investigations through a Justice Ministry computer technician who used the passwords of magistrates to pass information to Goncalves, in return for perks.

In October, Goncalves was indicted in another investigation, dubbed the “e-mail business”, into a system for bribing referees to help Benfica.

In January, club president Luis Filipe Vieira and his number two Fernando Tavares were implicated in a case involving trying to exert influence on a Lisbon Court of Appeals judge.

Meanwhile, Benfica’s great rival, FC Porto, are being investigated over the result of a match in Estoril started in January, abandoned at half time with the home team ahead and resumed in February with the visitors coming back to win 3-1. 

Porto are suspected of match-rigging but deny the accusation.

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