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Posted by portugalpress on July 19, 2018

An investigation has thrown up suspicions that “around €500,000” earmarked for home-reconstruction programmes following last summer’s devastating fires may have gone to fraudsters.

Visão magazine is carrying the story as its cover this week, stressing that “local disgust” in the areas around Pedrógão Grande is at boiling point.

Authorities have acknowledged the situation, admitting that houses that didn’t qualify for financial aid have almost certainly benefited from it.

Says SIC television today, at least nine rebuilds are under investigation.

They appear to have been homes that not only weren’t damaged in the fires, they weren’t even ‘homes’ as such: more ruins that owners hoped one day to restore.

The scheme that appears to have encouraged this alleged fraud is very simple: all homeowners needed to do to qualify for reconstruction funding was show proof of fiscal residence.

The fact that they may have changed their fiscal residence to qualify for the programme post the fires that killed over 67 people and destroyed thousands of hectares was never queried.

Indeed, Ana Abrunhosa of the area’s CCDR told reporters that her authority didn’t even have the power to check if homeowners had changed their fiscal residence after the fires.

The bureaucratic change meant that ‘second homes’ instantly became ‘primary residences’ and so qualified for funding.

This far, however, Visão explains that the government “has not received any complaints” while Pedrógão Grande town council “has not wanted to respond to questions”.

The story is rapidly being picked up by national media.

Expresso for instance refers to “accusations of favoritism” directed at mayor Valdemar Alves who heads the board that decides on which homes should qualify for aid.

Dina Duarte, vice-president of the association of victims of the fires, told Visão that there are now primary residences that have still not been repaired while others, “which were houses in ruins (before the fires) are now fixed up and empty”.

As we wrote this next, Publico released news that the Public Ministry has now opened an inquiry into Visão’s allegations.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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