The mayor of Madeira was arrested after a €50,000 (£42,600) diamond was found in a drawer in his office amid a corruption scandal that threatens to topple the Portuguese island’s government.
Pedro Calado resigned as the mayor of Funchal, which is Madeira’s capital. He was arrested and flown to Lisbon for questioning with Avelino Farinha and Custódio Correia, two construction company bosses.
A hotel business venture involving Cristiano Ronaldo, the Madeira-born footballer, is also being probed after a massive police operation involving 270 criminal investigators in the tourist hotspot.
Authorities are investigating whether real estate projects dating back to 2015 and worth hundreds of millions of euros were illegally approved by Miguel Albuquerque, the head of regional government, and Mr Calado.
Mr Albuquerque has resigned and is being investigated for eight charges, including corruption and abuse of power. He insists he is innocent.
The questioning of the former mayor was stopped after three days because of Mr Calado’s “exhaustion” last week. The judge is now expected to consider bail.
The diamond was reportedly found wrapped in paper in the mayor’s desk drawer along with 15 luxury watches. His defence lawyer claimed it was “of negligible value” but it is reportedly worth £42,600.
About £17,000 was found at his home and another £8,500 at his mother’s home. Mr Calado has been linked to a further £426,000 found in a safe.
Prosecutors are also looking at possible irregularities in a partnership between the Pestana Hotel Group and Mr Ronaldo regarding a development of 213 luxury apartments in Praia Formosa.
Land owned by footballer
Formosa Bay Residences is being built on land owned by the footballer close to the last major undeveloped beach in Funchal.
It was in an area protected by Funchal’s municipal development plan but the Jornal da Madeira newspaper reported that protection had been suspended, which has allowed construction to begin.
Mr Ronaldo has not responded to requests for comment from the media.
Both Mr Albuquerque and Mr Calado are from the centre-Right Social Democratic Party, which is expected to win a general election this year.
The snap vote comes after Antonio Costa, the Socialist prime minister, quit after a different corruption scandal involving green investment projects.
Only Portuguese visitors outnumber British tourists visiting the archipelago each year. Tourism brought in more than £512 million in revenue last year.