Portugal lax on bribery abroad, Angolan ties a concern: OECD

LISBON Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:55am EDT

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LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's must thoroughly investigate allegations of foreign bribery as its inaction raises serious concerns, especially over business with former colony Angola, the OECD warned on Thursday.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report that since Portugal joined an international anti-bribery convention in 2001, only 15 bribery allegations had surfaced. None resulted in a single prosecution.

Portugal signed up to combat bribery of foreign public officials in international business deals.

"This figure is low, given Portugal's strong economic links to countries plagued by severe corruption," the OECD said, adding that it was "seriously concerned about the low level of foreign bribery enforcement in Portugal".

The authorities have failed to actively investigate allegations or closed investigations prematurely, it said, urging the country to seek the cooperation of foreign authorities and go out of its way to enforce the law.

The OECD said it had worked with Portuguese prosecutors to produce its assessment.

Portugal has strong ties with its former colonies Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, all of them notorious for high corruption levels. Struck by a debt crisis and Europe's recession, bailed out Portugal has explored every opportunity to boost exports to these countries while attracting their investment to Portugal.

Angolan investors including state oil company Sonangol and businesswoman Isabel dos Santos - daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos - have built up significant stakes in Portugal's top banks and telecommunications firms.

Angola accounted for the largest share of foreign bribery allegations - a third of all known, according to the OECD.

"The number of cases involving Angola, and recent threats of economic retaliation by Angolan senior officials and media in response to reported investigations of Angolan officials by Portuguese authorities raise concerns," it said.

Attempts to investigate alleged money laundering and tax evasion by Portugal have triggered a series of tough-worded editorials published since November in state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola, accusing Portugal of launching a campaign against Angola, saying it threatened ties between the countries.

(Additional reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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