Portuguese Police on Friday searched the cabinet office of newly elected Eurogroup president Mário Centeno in connection with an investigation into illegal tax breaks, according to confirmed reports by the authorities.
Local media reports said Friday’s search was tied to allegations that Centeno offered a favourable tax treatment to a real-estate company owned by family members of Luís Filipe Vieira, the president of Lisbon football club Benfica.
The investigation is focusing on an alleged request for football tickets that Centeno made to Vieira as compensation for granting a property tax break to Vieira’s son.
The Portuguese Finance Ministry later confirmed that public attorney inspectors had appeared at Centeno’s offices.
“The Ministry Of Finance is fully cooperating with the investigation, making available all requested details to the authorities,” said the Ministry’s statement. “This will continue to be the stance of the Ministry of Finance in all cases where its cooperation is called for. At the same time, it will fully respect the confidentiality of ongoing judicial investigations”.
“The Ministry has no intervention in the attribution of the local tax exemptions”
Centeno has in the past insisted that he has any connections to a case that publicly resurfaced earlier this month when a number of leaked emails about Vieira’s case were circulated by the Portuguese press.
On January 8, the Portuguese Ministry has issued a statement about how it is not the Ministry or the minister’s prerogative to decide these tax breaks, insisting that the local housing tax (IMI) is a Municipality issue. In that statement, it is clarified that “the Ministry has no intervention in the attribution of the local tax exemptions (IMI) as foreseen in the Article 71 (7) of the Fiscal Benefits Statute (EBF): ‘Urban buildings subject to rehabilitation may be exempted from municipal tax on real estate (…)’.”
The Ministry statement adds that “after such local tax exemptions are decided at local administration level, the municipal services are only required to communicate them to the relevant tax office of the location of that real estate,” repeating that there was no intervention by the Portuguese Government, “in full compliance with the existing rules which give the government no prerogative to intervene in such decisions.”
In addition, “the Minister of Finance assures that he has never had any contact with the President of Sport Lisboa e Benfica, or any other person of the club, regarding real estate or equity interests of Benfica or the family of its president,” concludes the 8 January statement.