Altice co-founder denies wrongdoing in corruption inquiry

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Telecoms group Altice’s co-founder Armando Pereira, who was on Thursday being questioned by a judge about alleged corruption at the group’s Portuguese subsidiary, has denied any wrongdoing, his lawyer Manuel Magalhaes e Silva said.

Pereira was detained last week as part of an investigation into alleged corruption, tax fraud and money laundering at Altice Portugal. Police said the investigation focused on suspicions that the group’s procurement process was rigged.

The probe has already forced Altice International’s Co-Chief Executive Alexandre Fonseca, also chairman of the Portuguese and U.S. subsidiaries, to on Monday suspend himself from all roles and the group has now also suspended several managers, workers and legal representatives in Portugal and elsewhere.

The co-founder is now being questioned by a judge and prosecutors, according to Magalhaes e Silva. Asked if Pereira is innocent, the lawyer said: “Completely of all the facts that are imputed to him in the process”.

He said the prosecutors’ suspicions about Pereira “are not true, it is a set of presumptions”.

“There are several situations involving other people that, by presumption, through the construction of a narrative, they(prosecutors) also want to impute him, but everything in the process is being fully clarified by Pereira,” he told reporters.

He said Pereira “responded in an entirely clear and convincing way to the various questions raised”, adding that he hoped the co-founder would be released.

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

On Thursday, the Altice group – whose U.S. unit Altice USA is listed in New York – said that the CEO of the Portuguese subsidiary Ana Figueiredo will take over as chair, replacing Fonseca with immediate effect, and that Altice Portugal was providing “all cooperation requested by the Portuguese authorities”.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by David Holmes)