PORTUGAL – Portuguese authorities have launched Operation “Gota D´Água,” resulting in the arrest of 19 individuals suspected of engaging in fraudulent water quality testing.
The arrests, made by Polícia Judiciária, spanned individuals aged between 25 and 61, with charges ranging from abuse of power to document fraud.
The focus of the investigation centers on the potential fraudulent activities of the Laboratório Regional de Trás-os-Montes (LRTM), a laboratory accredited for water quality control.
The aforementioned laboratory is owned in tandem by six municipalities, a Municipal Association, and a multinational corporation with public money.
Situated in Mirandela, the lab is accused of falsifying sampling and analysis procedures related to water control for human consumption, as well as other water sources like wastewater.
The 19 individuals taken into custody included employees of the accused laboratory, public servants, and even a local councilor. The arrests point to a broad conspiracy involving individuals from different sectors.
Investigators revealed that the fraudulent activities were geared toward reducing laboratory costs. However, the consequences were severe, jeopardizing the reliability of water quality test results and undermining the trust in the safety of water consumed by affected regions.
The laboratory, LRTM, stated that it is cooperating with investigators. The legal proceedings resulted in varying outcomes for the defendants, with some released and others facing restrictions on contact and movement.
The accused Lab Director, in particular, was placed under house arrest and instructed not to contact other defendants, witnesses, or lab employees.
The operation involved extensive collaboration, with 60 searches conducted across various regions of Portugal.
Public Prosecutor’s Office in Porto, Polícia Judiciária, Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), and the Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority (ERSAR) joined forces to uncover the alleged fraud.
The alleged fraud has raised concerns about the potential compromise of water safety in the affected regions. Authorities emphasized the need for a thorough investigation to restore public trust in water quality testing and ensure the accuracy of results that impact public health.