Wine businessman Joe Berardo, who was released from jail on a €5 million bail sum last Friday afternoon over money laundering and fraud allegations, last year transferred Bacalhôa Wines into a separate legal entity, it has been revealed.
Lisbon law firm, CMS confirmed on Thursday that Berardo shifted Bacalhôa Wines to Statuschange, a consultancy company reportedly managed by Berardo and his son Renato, on 24 January 2020.
Until then, Bacalhôa Wines, one of Portugal’s biggest wine companies, was owned 60 percent by Associação de Coleções, ostensibly an art company, and one of the six financial entities allegedly involved in the financial scandal surrounding the non-payment of close to €1 billion of loans from three Portuguese banks.
Although the criminal allegations against Berardo are understood not to be related to the sale of wines, Berardo created a complex legal structure which had, until January 2020, interlinked his wine and art companies and other businesses.
In a statement issued by Portugal’s Conselho Superior de Magistratura (Portugal’s Supreme Council of Judiciary) last Friday, criminal court judge, Carlos Alexandre said there was “strong evidence” that Berardo committed eight crimes including money laundering and fraud over the non-repayment of several bank loans initially obtained in 2006.
It is understood that Berardo and his lawyer André Luís Gomes, created a legal structure to protect the financial guarantees that had been provided to obtain the loans. Following his arrest on 29 June, Judge Alexandre ruled, last Friday, that Berardo had to pay a €5 million bail sum and could not leave Portugal and ordered him to hand over his passport. The judge ordered Berardo not to communicate with Gomes.
Late on Friday, 2 July, Portuguese newspaper Expresso revealed that CMS managed the transfer of Bacalhôa Wines to Statuschange that was registered by Portugal’s national industrial property agency, INPI.
Berardo is understood to control Bacalhôa Wines and is listed as a board member, but he is allegedly not the “legal” owner of the company.
“Even though we only have dealt with the management of the brands and nothing else, we do not comment publicly on cases for deontological reasons.” a spokesman at CMS told Meininger’s.