The Times: “Trouble in Paradise”

Corruption scandal rocks Madeira

Paradise. Reid's Palace hotel, an iconic luxury hotel in Funchal
The Times reporting on “Trouble in Paradise ” yesterday

The Times yesterday reported that the sugar and wine trade with Madeira led to the establishment of an English colony on the sub-tropical island paradise as early as the 15th century. Long a favourite with British tourists, these days it offers luxury lodgings, wine tasting and hiking. But the respected newspaper is now reporting on “Trouble in Paradise” as corrupt local politics rises to the surface again.

“But there is trouble in paradise,” says the leading British newspaper, popular once upon a time with many of the readers staying in the select up-market hotels. A huge corruption scandal has cast a shadow over the Portuguese island, threatening to topple its government. Some of the island’s key political and business figures have been arrested. Under investigation is its top political leader and a business venture jointly owned by a hotel company and Madeira-born footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Times: "Trouble in Paradise" 1

The first sign of the approaching trouble in paradise was a massive police operation. Two Air Force planes carrying 270 criminal investigators, including two investigating judges and six magistrates, arrived from Lisbon last month. They made three high-profile arrests, including Pedro Calado, the mayor of Funchal, the capital of the archipelago.

Pedro Calado, the mayor of Funchal, is under arrest

A diamond worth €50,000 was allegedly found wrapped in paper in the mayor’s desk drawer along with 15 luxury watches. The gem was officially valued after his defence lawyer said it was understood to be “synthetic” and “of negligible value”. Another €20,000 was reportedly found at his home and €10,000 at his mother’s house. He has been linked to another €500,000 reportedly found in a safe.

The Times: "Trouble in Paradise" 3
Pedro Calado, the mayor of Funchal

Calado, who has since resigned as mayor, was arrested and flown to Lisbon along with two of the island’s construction magnates, Avelino Farinha and Carlos Custódio. Judicial questioning of the three detainees is ongoing. As a result of the operation, Miguel Albuquerque, the head of the regional government, is being investigated for eight crimes, including passive corruption, active corruption, abuse of power and influence peddling

… whilst the Regional President resigns

The President of the Regional Government, Miguel Albuquerque, has resigned. He has denied any wrongdoing. Portuguese authorities are investigating whether real estate projects worth hundreds of millions of euros on the island since 2015 were illegally approved with the collusion of Albuquerque and Calado, both from Portugal’s centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Portugal faces national elections

The investigation has dealt a further blow not only to Madeira’s Paradise image, but also to mainland Portugal’s image. The country faces elections next month that were called after corruption allegations led to the resignation of Antonio Costa, the Socialist prime minister. Costa resigned in November over an investigation into alleged illegalities in his government’s handling of large green investment projects. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The scandal in Madeira has damaged the PSD (social democrats) just as it hopes to win power, and tarnished the image of an island synonymous with tourism. Britons are the second most numerous nationality after the Portuguese in terms of visitors each year which reported that last year more than 2.1 million tourists visited Madeira, which has a population of about 250,000. From January to November 2023 tourism revenue exceeded €600 million. Measuring 35 miles by 14, the island lies 310 miles off the north-west coast of Africa and 621 miles south-west of Lisbon.

Celebrity visitors

Celebrity visitors to Madeira have marked the island’s tourism since the 19th cenrury. Most of them have been guests at the Reid’s Palace hotel, built by a Scot and opened in 1891, including King Edward VIII, Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. More recently Ronaldo’s association with the island has added to its allure for his fans.

Ronaldo posing in Madeira
Ronaldo promoting paradise Madeira

Corruption now “hanging in the air” in Paradise

The Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo, seen here posing with his individual trophies in Madeira in 2018, has invested in the island, intensely proud of birthplace.

However, the corruption scandal is now hanging in the air in paradise, which is not a surprise to a lot of the long-term residents. Among other areas of investigation, prosecutors are probing to see if Calado and Albuquerque are involved in any alleged irregularities related to a real estate project that is the result of a partnership between the Pestana Hotel Group and Ronaldo. They are investigating a development under construction in Praia Formosa by Pestana CR7, the hotel partnership between the businessman Dionísio Pestana and Ronaldo, the state news agency Lusa reported.

Formosa Bay Residences

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Formosa Bay Residences, with 213 luxury apartments 250 metres from the beach, is being built in an area protected by Funchal’s municipal development plan. However, the plan has been suspended, unlocking the start of works, according to the Jornal da Madeira newspaper. The land used on Formosa beach belongs to Ronaldo.

The project has sparked protests from environmentalists and opposition parties in Madeira. They point out that Formosa beach is the last major undeveloped beach in Funchal. Manuel Cunha, representative of Os Verdes, has drawn attention to its “questionable legality”, saying that no planning or licensing plan for Formosa Bay had been approved for residences.

Ronaldo declined to comment. Pestana have not responded to a request for comment.

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All the incidental news from Madeira – up to 60 reports per day – is being picked up automatically, google-translated, and instantly posted to our sister website, no matter how trivial:

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A new, vastly improved “search” facility has been introduced allowing readers to search (box in the sidebar above) on any word or phrase used in any of the posts over the last sixteen years. Previously the search facility only returned matches on headings rather than the entire content. It remains to be seen whether this will slow the blog down – fingers crossed! If it works it should move the blog even further ahead of the increasing number of imitators, providing a huge resource for visitors and residents.

19 thoughts on “The Times: “Trouble in Paradise””

  1. The Times is the first British news organisation to report the corruption investigation in Madeira. I have scanned the BBC, ITV, Sky News and online newspapers and seen nowt until now.

        • As Maurice said, The Times published on Sunday morning, I believe the first report in the British media. So glad you and the competition have been keeping us up to date. One thing I wish you could copy from The electronic Times is, as a subscription paper readers commenting must write under the real names on their subscription details.

          • It is strange that it has received little attention abroad George – although it has been widely covered in the national media. I suspect this maybe because of the up-coming elections there – a distraction from their own politics, but also a different angle, a both the major parties seem embrouiled in some sort of scandal.

  2. This has legs and a way to run yet, will not be dying down anytime soon. They will finish up,with cleanest politics on this planet for a short while. I still have concerns about the involvement of the military in the initial build up to this, military and politics are a bad mix.

    • No need to worry, as the military was not involved other than providing transport. That was necessary because of the importance of the surprise element. If all these officials had been flown in by normal planes, someone would have leaked the information ahead of their arrival. The military does not play any role in politics in Portugal. This is not a Third World country, though Madeira has, indeed, too many bananas for comfort.

  3. Well the UK newspapers should be talking about their on country corruption where everything goes under the carpet and the corrupt still at large enjoying their luxurious lifestyle paid by the taxpayers and think that are above of the law and order and it seems that justice in UK gone blind with this people forgiven and forgotten completely nothing is done .

    • Isabel, it is possible to do more than one thing at the same time. Of course they report on the corruption in the UK. One newspaper did one small article about what was happening here, that’s all. They reported on it because it’s unusual to hear of anything much happening in Portugal. That’s a compliment, not an insult. One of the reasons I moved here is because nothing major ever happens, it’s heaven. Why are you bothered by it?

  4. Corruption is everywhere, it couldn’t happen without the bank’s involvement. If you have a government job earning average pay, how do you bank so much cash and acquire such valuable assets.

    Major international banks have been fined billions of $ for money laundering but continue to assist individual’s and illegal operations to move billions around the world.

    What is sick is we the people now have to explain why we depositing a £1,000 in cash from the sale of personal goods and equally as bad when my son attempted to pay for his car service at a UK main Ford dealership in cash, he was accused of money laundering by the moronic receptionist in front of a number of people.

    Vietnam announced a US$12.5 billion embezzlement case last week and this isn’t the 1st. You cannot move this amount of cash without politicians, governments, banks, secret services, wealthy and connected people knowing, there had to be hundreds of people in the know, so to speak.

    To stop corruption, all we have to do is make the penalty greater than the benefit i.e. if you are found guilty of corruption you lose all your assets and serve a minimum of 25 years in jail. Currently if you murder someone you have a good chance of getting off with 15 years. If you rob a bank, you get 30 years. If you commit fraud and or corruption you will probably get off with a slap or a couple of years in prison and keep most of your ill-gotten gains.

    Singapore has been a good example of how to stop corruption.

  5. I wonder if Ronaldo will be questioned about this corruption, or if he will get away with it like when he forced himself on a woman, admitting to it in a signed police report and then just paid her off and is treated like a demigod in Portugal.
    That man is a wrongun, you mark my words.

  6. Well this Savoy and the other mega buildings they are building in Madeira they should follow the old layout and design of the buildings this way the island doesn’t become a concrete jungle and it is sad to see that to happening many old quintas and old buildings destroyed because of this . They should follow Guatemala that built Cayala where they create a town with old and traditional design and not a concrete jungle .

  7. Robert, that one answers itself and the building that houses H and Ms near entrance to St Caterina Park.
    It’s all unfolding now, and will for some time.


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