‘Red Card’ operation – Novo Banco starts internal audit of managers

  • Lusa
  • 12 July 2021

"Novo Banco immediately moved forward with a request for an internal audit in view of what was advanced by the prosecutor," Novo Banco's official source told Lusa today.

Novo Banco has decided to go ahead with an internal audit of the conduct of managers and former managers following the “Red Card” operation, which has Luís Filipe Vieira, ex-president of Benfica as a defendant, an official source at the financial institution told Lusa.

“Novo Banco immediately moved forward with a request for an internal audit in view of what was advanced by the prosecutor,” Novo Banco’s official source told Lusa today.

According to the same source, the aim is to “try to determine internally” what happened, in order to “assess the conduct of managers” against what was described in the “Red Card” operation.

Novo Banco also confirmed it had been the target of searches last Wednesday, July 7, involving several departments of the bank, and that “some employees of the bank were targeted” in the searches.

In the “Red Card” operation, Luís Filipe Vieira is indicted for abuse of trust, qualified swindle, falsification of documents, money laundering, tax fraud and abuse of information and is under house arrest pending payment of a bail of €3 million.

The Public Prosecutor (MP) estimates that the activity of Imosteps, the company of Luís Filipe Vieira, president of Promovalor and Benfica, caused losses of €45.6 million to Novo Banco between 2017 and 2019, later compensated by the Resolution Fund.

According to the MP, Luís Filipe Vieira wanted to buy Imosteps’ debt in order to eliminate the personal guarantees associated with it.

However, this purchase could not be made directly by Vieira or by related parties, a fact to which the former administrator of Novo Banco Vítor Fernandes will have warned him, according to a document on the “Red Card” operation to which Lusa had access.

“Knowing that Novo Banco wanted to close the sale of the “Nata Project II” credits by the end of June and, having been informed by Vítor Fernandes about the inclusion of Imosteps’ debt in Nata II and what was the best way to get it withdrawn, the defendants Luís Filipe Vieira and Tiago Vieira then decided to engineer a scheme that would allow them to submit a written proposal,” the document reads.

The defendants wanted to “make the Resolution Fund believe that there was a competition” and were “aware and warned by Vítor Fernandes that Luís Filipe Vieira could not appear in connection with the proposal to be presented, under penalty of not being approved by the Resolution Fund”.

The MP is convinced that Tiago Vieira initiated diligence with international funds that usually buy bad loans (in this case Bain and Davidson Kempner), in a process that also included Benfica SAD director Miguel Ângelo Moreira, expressing interest in buying the debt.

As soon as the sale of the Nata II portfolio was carried out, Luís Filipe Vieira gave instructions for the acquisition of the debt to the buyer Davidson Kempner, which was done for €9 million, using funds from José António dos Santos, through a fund called Fundo Portugal Restructuring Fund FCR.

The MP’s document states that Vieira ended up selling Imosteps to the fund for €1, “thus settling Imosteps’ debt to the value of €54.3 million, which had previously been guaranteed by him through five promissory notes, which were returned to him, managing to terminate his personal guarantee.”