The 'Super Attorney General' who is prosecuting the powers that be

Joana Marques Vidal, Deputy Attorney General, former President of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV), was appointed Attorney General by the Social Democrat PM Pedro Passos Coelho. Since she took office on October 12, 2011, Marques Vidal has filed charges against former government members and banking sector and soccer personalities.

During her tenure, Operation Marquês was launched and former Socialist Prime Minister José Sócrates was formally charged on counts of passive corruption, money laundering, document forgery, and aggravated tax fraud. All in all, this mega court case involves 28 defendants and 187 alleged crimes.

Other mega cases, such as the ones involving the Espírito Santo empire and the Golden Visas scheme, have reached the indictment stage. The Golden Visas case (with sentences to be pronounced on September 21) involves former Home Affairs Minister Miguel Macedo (Social-Democrat), charged of malfeasance and influence peddling in the exercise of his duties; former Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) Director

Manuel Palos; and former Registry and Notary Institute Director António Figueiredo.

It was also during Marques Vidal's tenure that Operation Fizz was launched - an investigation that has led to the indictment of Angola's Vice President Manuel Vicente and former Portuguese Prosecutor Orlando Figueira. The investigation into Manuel Vicente has already been transferred to Angola.

In the soccer universe, Pinto da Costa and former FC Porto SAD administrator Antero Henrique were investigated for illegally hiring private security personnel. Both the defendants were tried and acquitted.

24 of the 54 defendants were convicted of crimes related to illegal use of private security, with security company SPDE, which was also a defendant, at the center of the case.

The Attorney General has claimed that the Public Prosecutor's Office is not what it used to be, arguing that it is more "independent" now. In an open lecture on 'The Present and Future of the Public Prosecutor's Office', held at the Faculty of Law of the Catholic University (Lisbon) on April 7, Joana Marques Vidal argued that prosecutors, the "state's lawyers", now have greater "autonomy" than they used to.

It was also during Joana Marques Vidal's tenure that SL Benfica's emails case emerged, leading to the detention of Benfica's SAD legal advisor Paulo Gonçalves, in Operation e-Toupeira (Operation e-Mole). The Attorney General's Office (AGO) selected three female prosecutors to investigate soccer crimes (Ana Catalão, Patrícia Barão, and Vera Camacho).

According to a survey by newspaper 'i', based on data published on the AGO website, Joana Marques Vidal has already issued more than twice as many press releases as her predecessors. Fernando Pinto Monteiro issued 88 press releases during his six-year term (from October 9, 2006, to October 12, 2012), 88% less than Marques Vidal.

And the difference is even starker when we go back to José Souto de Moura's tenure. From October 9, 2000, to October 9, 2006, the AGO issued 66 press releases. Before that, José Cunha Rodrigues (who led the Attorney General's Office from 1984 to October 9, 2000) issued 49 press releases between 1996 and his departure - the only period when records are available online.

On January 9, Justice Minister Francesca Van Dunem announced that the Attorney General's term will not be renewed. In an interview with TSF Francisca Van Dunem explained "the Constitution of the Republic provides for a long, sole term. I think that, historically, this was the idea behind the creation of the term." Thus, in her "legal analysis reading," there is "a sole, long term."

The issue of long terms, Francisca Van Dunem recalled, was brought up during the tenure of Cunha Rodrigues, who held the position for 16 years, between 1984 and 2000. After that, Souto de Moura first and Pinto Monteiro, who succeeded him, held the positions for six years only.

Joana Marques Vidal's term ends this year, in early October. She took office in October 2012. She will then complete six years as Attorney General.

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