Chat-show host goes on trial over 'orphan sex ring'

Portuguese socialites are among seven people who go on trial in Lisbon today accused of preying upon vulnerable children from state orphanages.

Among those accused in the country's worst scandal for decades are Portugal's best-known media celebrity, the chat show host Carlos Cruz, 63, and Portugal's former ambassador to South Africa, Jorge Ritto, 68.

Also charged is Carlos Silvino, 47, a former caretaker employed by the state-run Casa Pia children's homes, who is accused of 669 acts of child sex abuse and of organising the supply of children for use as sex toys by members of Portugal's social and showbusiness elite.

Evidence emerged two years ago that up to 100 children in state care suffered decades of sexual abuse while senior politicians turned a blind eye.

The scandal broke when the mother of a former inmate said that orphanage staff had abused her son. Casa Pia is a 224-year old operation that runs 10 Lisbon homes for 4,500 young people, mostly boys, who have no family or whose parents are too poor to care for them. Former Casa Pia employees claim that abuse dated back to the mid-1970s, but that the authorities covered it up.

Thirty-two alleged victims, some under 16, are to testify in the closed proceedings. The three judges will hear evidence from 700 witnesses in a trial expected to last months.

Adolescents went on television to give testimonies of rape by adults they knew only as "Mr Engineer" or "Mr Doctor". They said Mr Silvino, whom they called "Bibi", offered them sweets and visits to football matches, then raped them in lavatories or dark corridors, and recruited them for sex parties with "important friends". When Mr Silvino was approached by a reporter two years ago, his reply prompted suspicion of a top-level conspiracy: "They can't touch me," he said. "There are too many powerful people involved."

Mr Cruz, a married father of two, vigorously denies charges of sexually abusing minors. "In my case, apart from testimonies from six or seven youngsters, there is not one telephone tap, photo or video or any declaration against me," Mr Cruz said.

Also in the dock today is Gertrude Nunes, 62, charged with providing her country house for encounters between children and their alleged abusers, including a former senior administrator at the orphanage, a doctor and a lawyer.

Last December, 10 people were charged, but charges against three, including Herman Jose, a popular comedian, and Pedro Pedroso, a socialist MP and former minister, were subsequently dropped.

* Spanish police arrested 90 people, including 21 minors, yesterday on suspicion of trading images and videos on the internet of children engaged in "all kinds of sexual acts".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own