The orphanage is controlled by a Ferrari-driving procurer known as “The Doctor”, who picks out and examines children ready to sell to the upper echelons of society and establishment in the US and Europe known as “The Magic Circle”.
A caretaker of the orphanage, known only as Bibi, who was responsible for transporting children in a van, has come forward to expose the sickening practices of the Casa Pia (House of the Pious) and claims to have witnessed children being “delivered” to government ministers and high-ranking diplomats, to famous television stars and members of the judiciary.
According to the Daily Mail, a 17th century Lisbon orphanage, where more than 4,000 children are cared for each year behind high stone walls, the doctor would summon selected boys and girls from their beds for examinations one night each week.
Where possible, he chose deaf-mutes.
After checking that the children were not suffering from any sexual infections, the doctor was joined by the orphanage caretaker, known as Bibi, who ushered the unfortunate children outside to a waiting van.
With the doctor following in his red Ferrari, Bibi drove the van to the prestigious homes of some of the leading members of Lisbon society.
There, the children were repeatedly sexually abused. Some were allegedly drugged to make them compliant; others were plied with alcohol.
This continued for years. Assaults were filmed; pictures of one attack were subsequently found at the home of a suspected pedophile in Paris.
According to medical records, the victims’ injuries were horrific – and consistent with serious sexual assault and rape. In witness statements, many were able to describe in minute detail the homes where they were taken and identifying marks on the bodies of their abusers.
The existence of this so-called “magic circle” of the Portuguese establishment, allegedly involved in an international pedophile ring using boys and girls from Casa Pia, was last week likened to an earthquake waiting to shake Portugal to its foundations.
New allegations about the scale of the network will be put before the country’s highest court within the next few weeks.
Amid rumors of links to other pedophile gangs across Europe and the U.S., international experts on child sex crimes and murders are expected to be in court when the case re-opens, four years after a group of victims broke a silence lasting more than 30 years.
It proves what international crime agencies have long suspected: that Portugal has become a magnet for predatory pedophiles from around the world, using the country’s lax laws and preying on the high numbers of poor, abandoned children.
Pedro Namora, a former Casa Pia orphan who witnessed 11 rapes on fellow orphans, during which they were tied to their beds, believes elements in the force have conspired to suppress scandals, fearing damage to the country’s reputation.
“Portugal is a pedophiles’ paradise,” said Mr. Namora, now a lawyer campaigning on behalf of the Casa Pia victims. “If all the names come out, this will be an earthquake in Portugal. There is a massive, sophisticated network at play here – stretching from the government to the judiciary and the police.” “The network is enormous and extremely powerful.
There are magistrates, ambassadors, police, politicians – all have procured children from Casa Pia. It is extremely difficult to break this down. These people cover for each other because if one is arrested, they all are arrested. They don’t want anyone to know.”
Now 54, Mr. Namora watched as friends sank into alcoholism, drug addiction and death after their traumatic childhood experiences at Casa Pia. “I was the only one who made it,” he said. “What could I do? I couldn’t keep silent.”
He has received death threats and warnings about what will happen to his own children, after taking up the case when an orphan called “Joel” approached him, saying prominent pedophiles were using Casa Pia as a “supermarket for children”.
Mr. Namora has been threatened after fighting on behalf of the abused children he grew up with.After being telephoned by a stranger offering to pay off his mortgage, he was told the exact movements of his own three children and warned that they and their father would come to a grisly end unless he shut up.
An open, warm man, Mr. Namora makes an unlikely conspiracy theorist, but he believes the case, which he brought to light in 2003, will underscore Portugal’s growing attraction for pedophiles, which has seen six children disappear in recent years.
One reason for this attraction is that the law was quietly relaxed last year, ahead of the forthcoming trial, meaning that repeat offenses against the same child would merit only a single charge – and a lesser sentence.
The initial investigation was badly handled when allegations of abuse were first made at Casa Pia in 1982. Carlos Silvino, the man known as Bibi, was linked to rapes and assaults, but police “lost” pictures showing prominent Lisbon politicians with him and the children.
He was only charged after dozens of children came forward in 2003. They also accused Jorge Ritto, a former Portuguese ambassador, of child abuse.Ritto, it transpired, had also once been sent home in disgrace from a posting in Germany after an incident involving a young boy in a park.
The conspiracy did not end there. Teresa Costa Macedo, a former secretary of state for the family, has revealed that she knew about the attacks in the early Eighties and that she had alerted General Antonio Ramalho Eanes, the then Portuguese president, about the allegations.
Mrs. Costa Macedo, who remained silent for two decades after being warned she would be killed if she spoke, now says that the caretaker “was just one element in a huge pedophile network that involved important people in our country. It wasn’t just him [the caretaker]. He was a procurer of children for well-known people who range from diplomats and politicians to people linked to the media”.
While still a government minister, Costa Macedo handed police “photographs, an account of the methods used to spirit children out of the orphanage and testimonies of a number of children”. Many of the photographs were found at ex-ambassador Jorge Ritto’s house. Police reportedly found four children locked up who had been missing from Casa Pia.
Under armed guard at a safe house last week, Bibi could count himself a lucky man. He originally faced allegations that he had sexually assaulted more than 600 children. That has since been reduced to 30. Silvino has hinted at the high-level of the conspiracy, saying: “They can’t touch me – there are too many people involved.”Following Ritto’s arrest, the police questioned Carloz Cruz, known as Portugal’s “Mr. Television”, and Joao Diniz, a high- society doctor and driver of the red Ferrari. The network allegedly went further. Paulo Pedroso, a government minister, was arrested and quizzed about 15 cases of child sexual abuse.
Amid allegations that pedophile networks have become endemic in Portugal – the European police force Interpol has named the country as one of the worst offenders in Europe – there are fears that the Casa Pia scandal will come to eclipse Belgium’s notorious Marc Dutroux case, in which the arrest of a notorious pedophile and child murderer revealed a sordid picture of judicial and political corruption.The culture in which such a serious child abuse network was allowed to operate is the same culture that pervades the whole of Portugal.
Was it this attitude that led to the bungled initial investigation in the Madeleine McCann case?