Silva To Be Stripped Of Domestic Swim Federation Crown After Portuguese Government Inquiry Finds Against Him In Favour Of Whistleblower

2024-01-17 No comments Reading Time: 5 minutes
António Silva, candidate for LEN president?

António José Silva, the president of European Aquatics, is to be dismissed as head of the Portuguese Swimming Federation (FPN) after a five-month Government inquiry sparked by a whistleblower concluded that his behaviour was incompatible with leadership of a national sports federation.

The ruling places Silva’s international roles in swimming in doubt: currently the subject of a World Aquatics Integrity Unit complaint and inquiry, Silva is the sole candidate for the presidency of European Aquatics in a January 27 vote that now looks unlikely to proceed.

In a judgement signed by the president of the board of directors at the Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth (IPDJ),  Vítor Pataco, on behalf of Portugal’s Secretary of State for Youth and Sport,  João Paulo Correia, the FPN is instructed to trigger the General Assembly process through which Silva will be dismissed.

In the order, dated Tuesday January 16, the IPDJ states that it has notified the General Assembly of the FPN – the highest authority of the Portuguese federation – so that it “triggers the necessary procedures to comply with provisions 49 [incompatibilities] and 51 [loss mandate] of the aforementioned Legal Regime of Sports Federations (RJFD)”.

The “incompatibility” focusses on the fact that Silva registered intellectual property rights to a water-safety project in his own name and those of two others in May 2022. A full year later, the registration was made in the name of the Portuguese Swimming Federation.

The inquiry concluded that Silva, together with Jorge Campaniço and Raquel Marinho lodged National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) registrations for the brand “A Prova de Água – Sobrevivência e Prontidão Aquática”. The registration, class 41, covers “Teaching swimming; swimming classes; training of swimming teachers”.

It was May 2023, by which time Silva had faced questions about the May 2022 registration, before transfer of the brand into the legal sphere of the Portuguese Swimming Federation took place.

Article 51 of the “Legal Regime” dictates the loss of mandate when “the heads of federative bodies who, in the exercise of their functions or because of them, intervene in a contract in which they have an interest, for themselves, as business manager or representative of another person , and also, when your spouse, any relative or similar in the direct line or up to the 2nd degree of the collateral line or any person with whom you live in a common economy is interested in it”.

The FPN General Assembly now has a period of 15 days in which it must hold an extraordinary meeting and comply with the dismissal of the current president, under penalty of having its public utility status suspended.

The Whistleblower

alexandrajorge
Alexandra Jorge – Facebook

Alexandra Jorge, the former secretary of the FPN General Assembly resigned her post in April 2023 citing events and behaviour that has now been deemed “incompatible” with the domestic role Silva has occupied for a decade, a status that also granted him positions on the top tables of World and European regulators and, in a 2022 coup, the presidency of the continental body.

Jorge’s letter of resignation noted: “since July 2021 I have witnessed some situations on the part of the FPN Management that, in my opinion, may be in contradiction with the most basic legal principles, such as equality between practitioners and clubs and legal security, in contradiction with the FPN’s own regulatory standards.

“… I was unable to ask for some clarifications formally and informally on issues that make me absolutely apprehensive about the way the FPN is acting/ managing some issues. Therefore, I am left to make this decision because I do not agree, and because I do not want to be bound by certain decisions that in my opinion are unequivocally incorrect and, as I said above, violate the most elementary principles.”

The issues we’re exposed by an investigation at The Inquisitor, which unearthed the serious efforts of members of the General Assembly of the FPN, led by Nuno Recarei, the president of the North Portugal Swimming Association, to have Silva answer questions posed by Jorge’s complaints.

Portuguese mainstream media has also followed through with reports on the dismissal decision, led by a report in A Bola, the nation’s leading sports paper.

No More Silva Linings?

The Inquisitor also reported on an emergency meeting held just over a week ago at which the leadership of European Aquatics, on the advice of its legal commission, decided to allow Silva to proceed with his candidature for re-election as president of the continental regulator in a vote due on January 27 at Congress in Athens.

The advice of the legal commission was arrived at on grounds that there were “no judgements” against Silva.

Well, there are now.

The Portuguese decision has already sparked calls for a postponement in the January 27 elections at European Aquatics. Silva was the only candidate for the presidency but his mandate for the role comes from Portugal and the FPN. Without that mandate, his candidacy is unlikely to proceed and new candidates must register their names for a new process at least 30 days before any new elections can be arranged.

It also remains to be seen whether sports organisations – including World Aquatics, of which Silva is a Bureau member – follow-up on the Portuguese Government’s ruling against Silva, who faces challenges on a number of issues, including the intellectual property rights issue.

The second key theme raised by Jorge was Silva’s candidacy for the presidency of European Aquatics. She questioned the use of FPN funds for the purpose of Silva’s campaign and asked him: “How much money did you spend on the candidacy?”

There was no response and she concluded: “He [Silva] says, and there are several documents and dates from the assemblies to show it, that the money would be reimbursed by the IPDJ and even met with the president of IPDJ [Vítor Pataco] and [another member of the team there] and that they told him they could advance with that money. This is recorded in minutes.”

The IPDJ appears to have a different version of events on that narrative.

Jorge tells me: “I’m happy that the decision sided with integrity. This was never personal. It is about doing the right thing and making sure that all who work in sport do so with integrity follow the rules that apply to everyone and create a healthy environment for the athletes and those who support them.”

She is now assisting the World Aquatics Integrity Unit with their inquiries into the allegations that have now sparked the process of dismissing Silva from his domestic swimming throne.

And the ruling comes from the higher power of a state Government that under sports rules governing political interference cannot force a federation to elect or dismiss a particular individual. The Portuguese Government does, however, have the power to withdraw all funding if it believes there are grounds for doing so, among them a failure to act on the findings and recommendations of investigations and inquiries.

In Portuguese law, the Government can also withdraw recognition of a federation and deny it the right to use disciplinary powers, access to and acknowledgement of national titles and the right to organise a national team. So … Game Over!

In some regards, the swimming decision matches that of late 2022, when an inquiry by the IPDJ led to the dismissal of Jorge Fernandes from the role of president of the Portuguese Judo Federation.

The grounds cited for dismissal run parallel: it was ruled that the incumbent had infringed rules that result in “ineligibility, incompatibility or for intervention in a contract in which they are interested”.

Relevant documents of the case can be read by subscribers of The Inquisitor.

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