Portugal’s Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, could face a tax probe after a protest group “hijacked” his national insurance number.
The protest, which has the backing of the political pressure group Revolucao Blanco, has been mounted against a new law cracking down on tax evasion, which makes it obligatory for Portuguese consumers to put the equivalent of their National Insurance number on all financial documents.
Protesters have responded by leaking the Prime Minister’s number, the plan being – with no document or name needed to accredit the number given in financial operations under €1,000 (£870) – to flood Portugal’s Inland Revenue with bills in Mr Passos Coelho’s name from restaurants, bars and shops. When combined, the bills would amount to a sum beyond the Prime Minister’s declared income, thus sparking a tax investigation into his affairs.
According to the Portuguese media, since 15 February, thousands of such bills in Mr Passos Coelho’s name have already reached the tax offices.
Two other government officials, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas, are also reported to have had their tax numbers “hijacked”. But at least one fiscal expert, according to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, told Portuguese television Mr Passos Coelho had nothing to fear, pointing out that the moment different bills showed him eating in several different restaurants at the same time any investigation would be abandoned.
The new law, which applies fines of up to €2,000 if tax numbers do not appear on bills, has been widely condemned in Portugal as an invasion of privacy. “If people are ready to do this [falsify Mr Passos Coelho’s number] it’s because they are disgusted with the situation”, the Revolucao Branco president Paulo Romeira told the Portuguese news agency Lusa.
Mr Passos Coelho and two of his ministers have already had to cope with another unusual form of protest last week – singing during their speeches.