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Portugal opens criminal probe into body overseeing internet domains

Staff Writer |
Portugal’s office of public prosecutions is investigating suspected illegal activity at the association that manages internet domains in Portugal, following a complaint by the former coordinator of the National Council on Cybersecurity (CNCS).

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In response to a question from Lusa, the office of Portugal’s attorney-general confirmed that a criminal investigation had been opened, overseen by Lisbon-based prosecutors.

Earlier this month Pedro Veiga, former CNCS coordinator, said in a hearing in parliament that he had in June lodged a complaint with prosecutors, adding that “as a citizen” he had the “responsibility of denouncing situations that violate the law”.

The complaint, he said at the time, contained “facts, supported by documentation” about DNS.PT, the private association that is responsible for managing internet domains in Portugal.

While not mentioning her by name, Viega made clear that the documents he had submitted related to a proposal by the current president of, Luisa Geifão, as a member of the association’s general assembly, that the board receive a salary. The proposal was accepted and she later became a member of the board, as well as president.

"They are salaries that I refrain from classifying [as to] whether they are high or low,” Veiga told deputies at the hearing. “The problem is the model of how it was done."

Veiga also said that he was against the fact that the funds generated by the management of domains were used to buy "for 2.5 million euros" a headquarters at Picoas, in the centre of Lisbon, where about 18 people work. In Veiga’s view, the funds should be “used for public ends”.

DNS.PT has in the meantime lodged a criminal complaint against the former CNCS coordinator, alleging defamation.

In a statement released on 18 July, it “vehemently repudiates the accusations” made by Veiga, alleging that they constitute “an unfounded attempt to denigrate” the association.

Veiga, who is seen as one of the pioneers of the internet in Portugal, is a professor in the IT department of the University of Lisbon and was head of the CNCS from 2016 until May this year. One of the reasons he gave for resigning from the post was that the minister of science had not kept a promise to transfer responsibility for managing internet domains ending in ‘.pt’ to the CNCS.

The CNCS is a national authority set up in 2014 with the mission of promoting the use in Portugal of cyberspace in a free and safe way, in cooperation with public and private entities.

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