Altice suspends some employees amid Portuguese corruption probe

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Altice International has suspended several managers, workers and legal representatives in Portugal and elsewhere while an investigation into alleged corruption, tax fraud and money laundering at its Portuguese subsidiary is conducted, it said on Wednesday.

Altice International’s Co-Chief Executive Alexandre Fonseca, who is also chairman of the Portuguese and US subsidiaries, had already suspended himself from all roles on Monday, following the group’s co-founder Armando Pereira’s detention last week.

Pereira’s detention was part of an investigation which police said focused on suspicions that the group’s procurement process in Portugal was rigged.

His lawyers said in statement on Tuesday that Pereira “has been the target of a widespread attack in Portugal in recent days … and that communication around this operation has been done in such a way that he was immediately considered guilty by the public opinion”.

“It is therefore time for the defence to demonstrate that reality is not so simple and that it is very different from what has been conveyed,” the lawyers said, pledging full cooperation on Pereira’s behalf.

Pereira, who is a Portuguese resident in France, founded Altice jointly with Franco-Israeli telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi.

In a statement, Altice International said authorities had discovered that Altice Portugal has potentially been defrauded “as a result of harmful practices and misconduct of certain individuals and external entities”.

It did not name the suspended employees and legal representatives.

Altice has started an internal investigation related to procurement and real estate sales in Portugal as well as within the wider group.

According to local media, the investigation looked into the sale of a set of buildings in Lisbon when Fonseca was CEO of Altice Portugal, between November 2017 and April 2022, which allegedly harmed the company by hundreds of millions of euros.

Pereira remained in custody as of Wednesday and is expected to testify before a judge in the coming days.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by David Evans)