Armando Vara, a former director of Portugal’s state-owned Caixa Geral de Depositos bank and ex-government minister, has been imprisoned for two years for money laundering. He is already behind bars for a separate offence.

The public prosecutor told Lisbon criminal court of a complex financial circuit of accounts in Switzerland and offshore companies, with Vara as the true beneficiary, and mentioned around €2m ($2.37m) being transferred to a Swiss account in the name of Vama, an offshore company of which Vara was ultimate beneficiary.

When questioned by the criminal investigation judge in 2009, Vara admitted ownership of all the accounts and committing tax fraud, Portuguese news agency Lusa reported the prosecutor as saying.

In reading the court’s judgement, the judges’ panel president Rui Coelho recalled Vara had exercised the highest public functions, adding: “It was the defendant’s moral duty to act differently, and the level of censure is high.”

He referred to the “very high degree of illegality” in a scheme set up to move funds with one purpose in mind: “hide the money”.

Coelho also said: “In the light of the information gathered and of experience it is not difficult to understand the motivation of the accused with the circulation of cash through third parties to then enter the accounts of offshore companies to ensure that the money was not detected by the tax authority”.

Vara, a former secretary of state in the home affairs minister and minister of youth and sports, is currently nearing the end of a five-year prison sentence after being convicted of influence peddling.

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