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Portugal investigates soldiers for smuggling and trafficking in UN mission in Africa – 11/09/2021 – World

This Monday (8), the Judiciary Police of Portugal carried out a mega-operation, under the name Miríade, to combat the trafficking of drugs, gold and diamonds. The focus of the investigation is a criminal network, with international connections, made up of the military and responsible for money laundering.

According to Público, the suspects are military, commanders and former commanders, who do not hold high ranks. It is suspected that they used Portuguese missions under the umbrella of the United Nations, especially in the Central African Republic (RCA), to carry out criminal activity.

In a statement, the PJ informed that one hundred search warrants and detention of ten suspects, mostly former military personnel, had been issued. Among the suspects is a member of the Guarda Nacional Republicana, who works in the Lisbon Metropolitan Command, and an agent of the Public Security Police who participated in these missions.

Three of the detainees are still military and were therefore taken to the military prison in Tomar during the afternoon. The rest are in the prison attached to the PJ. Only after being present in the next 48 hours to a judge, in Lisbon, will the coercive measures to which they were subjected during the investigation will be known.

Searches were carried out in the regions of Lisbon, Funchal, Bragança, Porto de Mós, Entroncamento, Setúbal, Beja and Faro. One of the targets of the searches was the regiment of Commandos, in the barracks of Carregaira, in Belas, municipality of Sintra.

Out there

The military transported drugs, gold and diamonds from the Central African Republic, at war, to Europe, aboard military aircraft, whose cargo is not inspected. The investigation found that, for example, as regards rough diamonds, they were transported overland to Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium, where they were sold at multi-million prices.

To launder the money, they bought cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies traded on the internet without the control of the financial authorities. And they resorted to front men (oranges) who put their bank accounts at their disposal, thus being included in a circuit of concealment of money. In exchange for this, the front men received 50% of the value of the deposits.

This investigation started in 2020 and is directed by the 10th section of the Department of Investigation and Criminal Action of Lisbon. On Monday, the Public Ministry had the support of 320 inspectors and experts from the PJ’s National Unit for Combating Corruption in the searches. The investigation was accompanied by Judge Carlos Alexandre. In the searches were also elements of the Tax Authority.

government reaction

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, considered that what happened should not have happened, but does not call into question the image of the Portuguese Armed Forces in the world. “What I say is that Portugal’s international image benefits a lot from the fact that we are, as we like to say, a net contributor to international security, and the fact that, in particular, in the United Nations peacekeeping missions, but also in the NATO and European Union missions, the role played by the Portuguese military must be unanimously recognized,” he said.

He added: “Whether when I was Minister of Defense or now as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have not heard from any international interlocutor talking about Portuguese forces deployed in international peace missions other than the request that we continue and strengthen our presence” .

The Assistant Secretary of State and of National Defense, Jorge Seguro Sanches, also commented on the matter, saying that “the investigations are very important” for the credibility of the military institutions. “As soon as there were some suspicions about this situation, the bodies themselves started to carry out this investigation and this result is now working”, referring to not knowing more specific data about the ongoing police operation.

“What we observe is, with all tranquility, the institutions functioning, clarifying what they have to clarify and acting, if necessary, in this situation”, he considered. Asked whether this situation affects the image of the Armed Forces and Portugal, Jorge Seguro Sanches replied: “No, it doesn’t. If there is a situation that needs to be clarified, it has to be clarified. If it wasn’t clarified, it could affect. ..”

Complaint reached the General Staff in 2019

In a statement, the General Staff of the Armed Forces informed that, in December 2019, the possible involvement of the Portuguese military in diamond trafficking was reported to the commander of the 6th National Detached Force (FND) in the Central African Republic (RCA). . The commander reported the situation to the General Staff, which, in turn, delivered the complaint to the Military Judiciary Police for investigation.

The same communiqué refers to the PJM that made the respective complaint to the Public Ministry, which appointed the Civil Judiciary Police as the entity responsible for the investigation. The General Staff confirms that what is at stake at the moment is the possibility that some soldiers who participated in the FND in CAR have been used as couriers in the trafficking of diamonds, gold and narcotics. These products were allegedly transported on FND aircraft returning to national territory.

In addition to the immediate denunciation, the General Staff says that it has had the control and verification procedures reinforced upon the arrival of FND military personnel and their respective cargoes and that, at this time, “military inquiries and their consequences are pending from ongoing investigations, with the be careful not to interfere in this process, still in the secrecy of justice”.

“Once responsibilities are clarified, the Armed Forces will take the necessary measures, being absolutely intransigent with deviations from military values ​​and ethics. The Armed Forces totally repudiate these behaviors contrary to the values ​​of the military institution.”

Defense Minister says he informed the UN

The Defense Minister revealed, in turn, that he informed the United Nations in 2020 of the suspicions of trafficking that fell on some Portuguese soldiers on a mission in the Central African Republic, guaranteeing that they were no longer in that territory.

“I informed [a ONU] that the complaint had taken place, that the matter had been referred to our judicial authorities, and that all pertinent elements had been turned over for judicial investigation. And also, naturally, that the military under suspicion were no longer in RCA and could therefore have all the confidence in our Armed Forces as they always had,” said João Gomes Cravinho, in statements to Lusa news agency.

The government official also guaranteed that “those whose names had been indicated as suspects no longer returned to the CAR in later missions”, stressing that “the denounced soldiers were no longer in the CAR at the time of the denunciation”.

GNR confirms detained

The Guarda Nacional Republicana confirmed that a provisional guard in training since June 2021 was detained by the Judiciary Police at the 44th Guard Training Course in Portalegre, who joined the training provided by the Armed Forces.

Portugal has been present in the Central African Republic since the beginning of 2017, within the framework of Minusca (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Mission for the Stabilization of the Central African Republic). The 6th FND arrived at RCA in September 2019 and had the role of Rapid Reaction Force. 180 soldiers took part in it, mostly paratroopers, 177 belonging to the Army and three to the Air Force.

China, land in the middle

The members of the 6th National Force Deployed in the Central African Republic were decorated on February 27, 2020, before being replaced by the 7th FND in March, at a ceremony held in the capital, Bangui, at a time when the detachment of this unit was finish in that country. The awarding of medals to the 180 blue helmets of the Portuguese Rapid Reaction Force at the service of the United Nations mission in CAR (Minusca) took place at a ceremony organized by the UN, in M’poko, Bangui. At that time there were also 14 members of the Public Security Police in RCA.

According to a statement from Minusca, released at the time, the 180 Portuguese soldiers “were in charge of protecting civilians, collecting information, responding to the surrounding crises, conducting long-range patrols and operations to control areas and surveillance.”

During the six months of operation, the 6th FND, according to the same communiqué, “intervened in land and air scenarios in several places, having participated in operations and escorted high authorities”.

According to Público, this investigation involves soldiers who were part of the 6th FND, as well as previous ones. Each mission lasts six months and will involve criminal practices that were transferred from one force to the next that came to yield it.

According to data from the General Staff, 180 Portuguese military personnel are currently engaged in the RCA within the scope of Minusca. Also in the CAR, but as part of the European Union’s training mission, 25 soldiers are currently engaged.

Since 2013, RCA has been living in chaos and violence, after the fall of former president François Bozizé by several armed groups that joined together, forming an alliance under the name of Séléka, which aroused opposition from other militias, grouped by in turn, under the anti-Balaka designation.

This territory has been the scene of clashes between these groups, which have forced almost a quarter of CAR’s 4.7 million inhabitants to flee their homes.

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