Upon Wednesday’s release of a hard-hitting Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) report on a land swap deal involving the former Iec Long Firecracker Factory site in Taipa, the government said it had determined that the agreement is invalid and defective, adding that the anti-graft body would launch a criminal investigation into the case if any indication of corruption is found.
Almost one year after Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosario passed the case to the graft buster last August, the commission has finally come to the conclusion that a letter of commitment on the deal, signed by the government and the Baía da Nossa Senhora da Esperança Development Company in 2001, is null and void.
Jaime Carion, the director of the Lands, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) at that time, signed the letter of commitment on behalf of the government.
Pointing out that Carion lacked the necessary legal competence to sign the letter of commitment, the CCAC report added that the document was never published in the Official Gazette (BO) as legally required. Carion retired from his post in 2014.
Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has ordered Rosario to follow up on the issues raised in the CCAC report, the Spokesperson’s Office of the Government (GPV) said Wednesday in a statement, adding that disciplinary procedures would be launched if any civil servants are found to have been involved in any misconduct in the case.
By signing the letter of commitment, the government swapped a 152,073-square-metre land plot in Baía de Nossa Senhora da Esperança with the company for the factory site, which covers an area of 28,340 square metres, in January 2001, the CCAC report said.
The graft buster said that the company, however, held the rights to only 1,655 square metres of the site.
According to the CCAC report, of the 28,340-square-metre factory site, 21,668 square metres are public land, which was previously leased by the government in the 1950s to two owners of the factory. The leasehold, however, was annulled by the government in 1986 because the factory had ceased operation at that time.
While most part of the site is public land as indicated by official documents, the ownership of 2,279 square metres of the site was not registered in the Real Estate Registry, the report added.
The whole factory site comprises 39 different plots of land, according to the report.
The anti-graft body further revealed that the Lands, Public Works and Transport Bureau “before July 2000” did not take the public land into account when calculating the value of the site for the land swap deal in January 2001.
However, the bureau took public land plots on the site into account as well when assessing the site’s value, in a report submitted to the government’s then secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long in July 2000, without indicating any reasons for the change.
Ao, who was arrested in 2006, is serving a 29-year prison sentence for graft, abuse of power, money laundering and other crimes. According to a CCAC statement at that time, Ao amassed at least 800 million patacas in ill-gotten gains.