Money laundering and fraud in Portugal?

Wine Businessman Joe Berardo is accused of various offences.

Bacalhôa Estate in Portugal near Lisbon
Bacalhôa Estate in Portugal near Lisbon

A top criminal court judge in Lisbon is to rule on the adoption of preventive measures today against Portuguese wine businessman and art collector, Joe Berardo, who was detained by police in Lisbon on Tuesday, 29 June. Berardo, who is suspected of committing crimes relating to more than €1 billion in loans received from several Portuguese banks, yesterday faced questions from judge Carlos Alexandre over money laundering and fraud allegations.

Earlier this week, police conducted more than 50 searches for evidence at private homes and banks in several Portuguese locations. Several national Portuguese newspapers reported yesterday that Berardo’s son Renato, his brother Jorge, and his lawyer were all among twelve suspects who had formed the economic group involved in the alleged financial scandal. Renato Berardo is listed as chairman of Bacalhôa Wines, with Joe Berardo and his brother listed as board members of the company. 

Complex ownership

Portugal’s judicial enquiry, launched in 2016, reportedly centres on six financial entities established by Joe Berardo, including Associação de Coleções, ostensibly an art company, which owns 60 percent of Bacalhôa Wines, one of Portugal’s biggest producers. According to Portuguese business newspaper Expresso, a further 18 percent of the company is owned by Metalgest, a management company based in Madeira and owned by Joe Berardo. It said Bacalhôa Wines owns 49 percent of property company Matiz Sociedade Imobiliária. On Thursday, Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Noticias said Berardo had established an offshore company in tax haven the Cayman Islands to hide funds from bank loans. 

Large wine production

Bacalhôa Wines, makes up to 20 million litres of wine per year from 1,200 hectares of vineyards. It is comprised of nine estates and production facilities in Portugal, including Quinta da Bacalhôa in Setubal, which Joe Berardo bought in 1998. In 2008, Berardo became the owner of Quinta do Carmo when he bought the 55 percent remaining stake in the Alentejo wine estate from Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite in exchange for five percent of the capital of Bacalhôa wines. Berardo controlled, at the time, 75 percent of Bacalhôa wines, whose other actionists were DBR, António Carlos Almeida Braga, António d’Avillez, some Bacalhôa managers, and shareholders of Caves Aliança (Bairrada). Bacalhôa Wine owns Caves Aliança. He also reportedly owns Colio Wines in Canada and Cumulus Wines in Australia, as well as vineyards in Madeira.


Berardo is understood to have created a complex legal structure for his wine and art companies, which means he is no longer the “legal” owner of Bacalhôa Wines. 
Ana Leitão, a marketing manager at Bacalhôa Wines, declined to comment on full details of the ownership of the company. But speaking to Meininger’s she said: “Joe Berardo is no longer the majority shareholder – this changed three or four years ago.” Speaking at a parliamentary commission hearing into financial irregularities in May last year, Berardo publicly said that the only asset in his name was a “garage in Madeira”. At the time he said, “I have no debt”. 

Berardo founded the Museu Coleção Berardo, showcasing major works by Miró and Mondrian, in 2006. However, the museum's art collections were subsequently seized as collateral shortly after the hearing. 

Leitão told Meininger’s that Bacalhôa Wines now had “100 shareholders” including Remy Martin and a big Port wine company that wished not to be named. However, when Meininger’s contacted the two companies, they both strongly denied that they owned shares in Bacalhôa Wines. Elena Brito, Joe Berardo’s private secretary in Lisbon, refused to comment on Bacalhôa Wines. “I know nothing about Bacalhôa,” Brito told Meininger’s. 

Barnaby Eales




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