The case dates back to 1999. And throughout these years it has fed newspaper covers, radio news and television debates without making too much dent in the "status quo" of Cape Verdean justice. But at the beginning of this month (September 5), and apparently suddenly, there is a turnaround in the process and the public opinion is surprised (almost 20 years later) with a search warrant from the Public Ministry to the office and home of Arnaldo Silva, thus upholding the public complaints and the "evidence" provided by another well-known lawyer in the square, Felisberto Vieira Lopes - who in an authentic crusade never stops accusing Arnaldo Silva of "illegal sale of land, in Praia, by means of a fraudulent scheme at the Conservatory, through the adulteration of leaves of the Building Matrix". An act that has damaged the "alleged" owners and even the State of Cape Verde in thousands. Everything to be proved in court.
What is certain is that the Public Prosecutor's Office is now adding six more suspects to Arnaldo Silva. All are enrolled in the process. The judge himself, in his sentence, forbids Arnaldo from contacting them, but until today their identities have been kept out of the spotlight. In the name of the sacrosanct secret of justice.
The former President of the Cape Verde Bar Association, Arnaldo Silva, has been at the Court of Praia not to defend a client but in the position of defendant-prisoner by the Judiciary Police. His arrest was validated by a judge at the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office, after searches of the offices and residence of the lawyer. He is accused of fraud in connection with the illegal sale of large tracts of land that the State and private individuals would own in the capital, which "miraculously" ended up with only one person, - a Portuguese named Fernando José Serra Sousa, represented by Arnaldo Silva.
In short, the Public Prosecutor's Office decided to take forward the complaints made in 2010/2011 by a well-known lawyer from the square, Felisberto Vieira Lopes, in several articles published in the newspaper A Semana, under the title "The Case of Palmarejo Grande - the biggest fraud in the history of Cape Verde, The thread of the skein through which the Mafia and the Mafiosi of Cape Verde can be discovered".
In these and subsequent articles, the jurist accuses his colleague Arnaldo Silva of being the mentor of a "Network of corruption, falsifications, sales by fraud of "stolen" land in Palmarejo. According to Veira Lopes, the leaves of the Land Register at the Conservatória da Praia - where the property records are kept - were torn up and replaced by others. Moreover, he says that this "criminal" act had been happening since 1999, when Silva was part of the nomenclature of the party in power.
Vieira Lopes is an advocate for one of the families he believes have been injured, the Tavares Homem family. In the face of what he soon called the "mafia" in the Terrenos de Palmarejo, he gets involved in the investigations, which lead him to colonial times and the history of land distribution on the islands. And so it is, armed with "historical evidence" that without mercy calls its owner. Hence, in a leaflet distributed to all entities in the country in 2011: "On February 24, 2003, Fernando José Serra Sousa, without having inherited, bought or bought Palmarejo, Frouxa-Chapéu (now Tira-Chapéu), Terra Branca, Monte Babosa and Simão Ribeiro, included these buildings in building 5780 through the fraudulent artifice of a matrix certificate issued on September 25, 2002, based on the matrix falsified in 1999".
Inspection of the Municipality of Praia confirms "irregularities"
A report by the Municipal Inspection Unit (UIAT) of the Ministry of Decentralization (in the governance of the PAICV), released in February 2011, reported that, after an inspection of the Municipality of Praia, several "irregularities and illegalities committed at land level" had been detected. Among them, it confirms the mega bubble committed in the 1990s, during the Edil Jacinto Santos consulate at the CMP, which is said to have injured the owners of the land - State and private - in thousands of escudos.
The document was sent to the Municipality of Praia, so that it could exercise its right to adversarial proceedings. It should be noted that at the time the municipality of the Cape Verdean capital was controlled by the MpD and chaired by who is now the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva. Moreover, it came to prove the denunciations made in the A Semana newspaper by the lawyer Vieira Lopes that the first four pages of the Building Matrix Book were pulled out and replaced, passing enormous extensions of land - until then belonging to the State, CMP and some private - to a single person: Fernando José Serra Sousa.
However, ignoring everything and everyone, in 2014 (formally initialled in 2017), the then Praia building, Ulisses Correia e Silva (current Prime Minister), decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the land in question with Arnaldo Silva (lawyer for the Portuguese Fernando Sousa's family).
Through this document, "the first grantor (Fernando Serra Sousa) cedes to the second (CMP) the property rights he holds over the land inscribed in the urban land matrix of this municipality under the number 1105 and described in the Registry Office - Property Section, under the number 5780, with the confrontations therein". The same lands that are now being claimed in court by Vieira Lopes in favor of the client Tavares Homem.
The Municipality of Praia, in that contract, would be able to sell "all the lots that have not yet been sold, the lots to be created and, if applicable, the lots in the process of regularization", and the sales values (they would be "deposited in a joint account, and the same should be divided at the end of each month, in equal parts by the granters".
This unusual case in Cape Verdean justice is being followed by society as a whole, which has long been calling for selective justice in the country, where white-collar crimes never reach the bars of the courts. After all, it brings to light one of the greatest tragedies of Cape Verde ever: many poor people who for several years have struggled in the courts to recover their land sold by millions to private individuals.
Suspicions aside, Arnaldo Silva, until now the only person arrested in the process, is wanting more people in the noise. What's more, he wants to take everything into the field of political-politics by talking about "a cabal" to reach the current Prime Minister and former mayor of Praia, Ulisses Correia e Silva, at a time when elections are approaching in the country. The Judicial Power
It goes further when it calls on the press to demand "clearly and vehemently that someone has to stop the Public Prosecutor's Office" which, it says, is casting suspicion in relation to a lawsuit in secret. "Imagine even saying that there are six people involved," said the accused Arnaldo Silva in a press conference.
The lawyer's statement did not go down well in Cape Verdean society and was understood by many people as "illegitimate pressure" on their "friends of the Government and the Presidency of the Republic" to interfere in the other power constitutionally consecrated: the Judiciary.