Paulo Portas was born in Lisbon and grew up in a free thinking, politically aware family with rural landowner roots in Vila Viçosa on his father's side and military tradition on his mother's (niece of Portuguese aviation hero Artur de Sacadura Cabral). His father, Nuno Portas, was an influential post-modernist architect, who professed progressive Roman Catholic views. His mother, Helena Sacadura Cabral was an economist, journalist and author, who held more conservative views that appear to have passed on to Paulo Portas who stayed living with her after his parents separated. In contrast, his older brother Miguel Portas stayed with their father and became a communist and later a leftist. Their half-sister is Catarina Portas, a well-known Portuguese journalist, businesswoman and media personality.
Following the 1974 Carnation revolution in Portugal, Paulo Portas was briefly sent to school in France but returned in 1975 to study at Lisbon's top private high school (Colégio S. João de Brito). In 1984 he got a law degree from the Portuguese Catholic University, where he met Manuel Monteiro who, 10 years later, would serve as Portas's stepping stone into the CDS-PP and national politics. He is said to be a Church-going Catholic.
At age 12 in junior high school, Paulo Portas is said to have launched a school newspaper called "Laughs and Smiles" (Risos e Sorrisos); it is not known how long it lasted. In his mid-teens (1974–75) he began contributing to the official newspaper of the youth wing of the PSD (which at the time was called Partido Popular Democrático, 'PPD'). The paper was called "On Behalf of Socialism" (Pelo Socialismo) and Portas became its chief editor. As a teen he also began working on the conservative daily A Tarde and weekly O Tempo newspapers and soon his eloquent anti-leftist views earned him guest opinion columns in the few conservative newspapers of post-revolution Lisbon. He first became nationally known at 15 years of age when he wrote a letter-to-the-editor of the daily evening newspaper Jornal Novo that prominently published it under the heading "Three Betrayals" ("Três Traições") directly accusing then president Ramalho Eanes, prime minister Mário Soares and foreign minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral of "selling out" Portugal's African colonies in 1974-75. The article earned him a libel lawsuit from President Eanes and valuable public exposure to get his own weekly opinion column in O Tempo and, some years later, in the new weekly Semanário. In 1987, he co-founded, with Miguel Esteves Cardoso, the weekly newspaper O Independente, which started publication in May 1988 and became known for its innovative editorial concepts as well as for denouncing political scandals, often on the basis of little more than hearsay. In reporting such scandals, Portas personally targeted the then prime-minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva and most of his ministers (1985–1995) thus making several enemies in the PSD. Although it reached very respectable circulation levels in the 1990s, O Independente never quite reached Portas's stated objective of outselling the leading Portuguese weekly Expresso and eventually folded in 2006.
In the 1990s Portas became a TV personality appearing regularly on several Portuguese TV channels as a political commentator. He was a sporadic panel member in a popular weekly night TV talk show (Raios e Coriscos) and in the Portuguese edition of Crossfire. In 2006, after his first stint as a government minister, he returned to TV with his own biweekly show (O Estado da Arte) where he commented on current issues.
Paulo Portas showed a precocious interest in politics and as a child engaged in lively political discussions with his elders. In 1975 he joined the youth wing of the Democratic Popular Party (PPD), which in 1976 became PSD Social Democratic Party. He would later profess to have been a staunch follower of PPD's founder Francisco Sá Carneiro, who is said to have relished the views of the 14-year-old Paulo Portas and personally sponsored his full PSD membership in 1978. Sá Carneiro died in 1980 and, following a bitter loss in an internal election of the party's youth-wing JSD, Portas quietly left PSD in 1982. He remained involved with politics through his popular opinion-columns in the conservative weekly newspapers O Tempo and Semanário.
Paulo Portas took his first big step into politics in 1986 with his personal endorsement of presidential candidate Diogo Freitas do Amaral, in support of whom Portas, already a well-known media pundit, campaigned with determination. However, Freitas do Amaral lost the election and Portas stepped back from politics to launch the "O Independente" newspaper project and became its Deputy-Director. By the 1990s he was a widely recognized national figure and stated more than once on TV that he "did not want to be a politician" but it would later become apparent that he was, on the contrary, moving full speed towards becoming Portugal's leading conservative politician. He is credited with helping his former University colleague Manuel Monteiro gain the leadership of the Centro Democrático Social (CDS) party in 1992 and with coming up with new strategies, such as rebranding the CDS as the People's Party (CDS-PP) in line with several of the major conservative European parties.In 1995, Portas formally joined the CDS-PP with the full support of Manuel Monteiro, who put him at the top of the party list in the district of Aveiro thus ensuring that he would become a member of the Portuguese Parliament in that year's legislative elections. In 1997 he ran and was elected member of the municipal chamber of Oliveira de Azeméis.
In 1998, after the CDS-PP performed poorly in the 1997 local elections, Portas made his move to control the party by first manoeuvering to get Manuel Monteiro to resign, and then by defeating his hand-picked successor who underestimated Portas by comparing him to Mickey Mouse. On 22 March 1998, Portas finally became President of the CDS-PP after a bitter take-over that established Portas's reputation as a cunning politician who does not hesitate to remove those who stand in his way even if they had formerly been his friends or allies. Upon taking over the CDS-PP, he immediately sought to energize the party and earn himself name recognition by campaigning in more media-friendly ways and soon became known by his appearances in public events that earned him the nickname "Paulie of the Market Fairs" (in Portuguese: "Paulinho das Feiras"). He is also said to have brought in political marketing experts to enhance his image and that of the party. He was a leading voice against Portugal's "regionalization" and "legalization of abortion" in two 1998 referendums that did not come to pass. In 1999, he headed the CDS-PP list to the European Parliament, got elected but only remained in Brussels less than six months. In 2001 he ran for Mayor of Lisbon and was soundly defeated, but got enough votes to be elected member of the City Council. Despite running under the slogan "I shall remain" (in Portuguese: "Eu fico"), he left City Council shortly afterwards to focus on the 2002 elections.
In the 2002 legislative elections, the CDS-PP won 8.7 percent of the vote and 14 Parliament seats, which were sufficient to form a government majority with the PSD that won the election. The CDS-PP participated in two coalition governments from April 2002 to March 2005 and Portas served as Minister of State and National Defence in the first (Durão Barroso) and Minister of State, National Defence and Sea Affairs in the second (Pedro Santana Lopes). As Minister of Defence, he presided over important reforms of the military, such as abolishing conscription, but his most lasting legacy was the upgrade of military equipment in the context of the 2003 "Military Programming Law" that envisaged a major boost in military equipment spending to 5,341 million euros, including two submarines and 260 combat vehicles that would become the subject of much controversy after he left office (see below). As Minister of Defense, Paulo Portas was also determinant in aligning Portugal with George W. Bush's 2003 Iraq invasion by saying he had personally "seen irrefutable evidence of weapons of mass destruction" while on an official visit to Washington (see below). He was subsequently awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service by the USA's Defense Department.
In the 2005 early elections, the two incumbent coalition parties suffered a crushing defeat, with CDS-PP losing 60,000 votes and two of its fourteen seats in Parliament. Paulo Portas assumed the responsibility for the defeat and resigned from the party leadership but not from his seat in parliament. He failed to get his preferred successor (Telmo Correia) elected, but some of his staunchest party allies managed to remain in control of the party's Directorate (the "National Congress") setting the stage for Paulo Portas to return in 2007 in what his brief successor José Ribeiro e Castro called "a coup d'etat." Paulo Portas had accused Ribeiro Castro of being an ineffective absentee leader (for keeping his post at the European Parliament) and called for party elections open to all CDS-PP supporters gambling that he would capture the support of the less involved party members. Ribeiro e Castro questioned the legality of Portas' challenge but, in April 2007, he was soundly defeated by Portas who got 70% of the militants' votes and would remain as CDS-PP president until 2016. For the next six years, Paulo Portas led his party in the opposition to the ruling Socialist Party (PS). His new strategy for the party was to focus on a few major issues (such as agriculture, tax cuts, fuel prices) in order for CDS-PP to retain conservative voters, who, in the past, supported CDS-PP but voted PSD at election time. In 2009 he personally ran for local office in the small municipality of Arouca (population: 20,000) and was elected to the Municipal Assembly significantly boosting CDS-PP's votes in the region. In 2006-07, just prior to regaining the party leadership, Paulo Portas again had been a leading 'No!' voice against the legalization of abortion in Portugal in the 2007 referendum that was won by the "Yes!" vote that reversed the "No!" outcome of the 1998 referendum.
In the 2011 elections, Portas's opposition strategies paid off and the CDS-PP achieved its best result in 30 years: 11.7% of the total vote. The winning party, the PSD, needed the CDS-PP to reach a parliamentary majority and the two parties formed a coalition government. By his own choice, Portas became Minister of State and of Foreign Affairs and secured two more minister slots for the CDS-PP, including the Minister of Agriculture position for his youthful female protegée Assunção Cristas, who would five years later succeed Portas in the CDS-PP party's leadership. As minister, Portas chose (and relished) devoting himself fully to performing his official functions, in particular traveling abroad. He made his priority what he called "economic diplomacy", meaning the generation through diplomacy of business opportunities abroad for Portuguese companies. To that effect, he wrestled control of the Portuguese Foreign Investment and Trade Agency (AICEP) from the Ministry of Economics. In 2013, to attract foreign investments, Paulo Portas instituted "golden visas" to make it possible for non-EU foreigners to obtain Portuguese residency if they invested at least 500,000 euros in Portuguese real estate. By focusing on his duties as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he also managed to distance himself from the difficult decisions related to Portugal's economic austerity program. More than once he kept silent or expressed his disagreement with unpopular measures taken by the government to which he belonged, and on 2 July 2013 he abruptly resigned in protest at the appointment of a Finance Minister (Maria Luís Albuquerque) he did not approve of, a decision he called "irrevocable" but that he subsequently revoked (see below).
When Paulo Portas resigned from the government in July 2013, Prime-Minister Passos Coelho feared the end of his coalition government and negotiated with Paulo Portas his permanence in a higher capacity as Deputy Prime-Minister with oversight over economic issues. Paulo Portas also obtained control of the Ministry of Economics where he placed two close associates: minister António Pires de Lima (his close childhood friend) and state secretary Adolfo Mesquita Nunes (his youthful protégé in the CDS-PP party). In control of the key ministries of Economics, Agriculture, Labor and Social Security (held by his CDS-PP ministers), Paulo Portas came to wield political power far beyond the 12% of the national vote his party received in the 2011 elections. As part of his Deputy Prime-Minister attributions, Paulo Portas took charge of the negotiations on Portugal’s IMF/EC/ECB-supported program, the terms of which he had publicly declared to be against. However, his only visible act of defiance was the setting up, in December 2013, of a "countdown clock" showing the time remaining until the expiration of the program on 17 May 2014. Through the rest of his mandate that ended in 2015, he raised no major new policy proposals or objections in his capacity as Deputy Prime-Minister, choosing instead to use his economic policy oversight position to travel the world promoting Portuguese companies and products in what appears to have been a continuation of the "economic diplomacy" priority he had established as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 2015 Paulo Portas agreed to an electoral alliance between his CDS-PP party and its government coalition partner PSD party as to jointly maximize their numbers of elected members of Parliament in 4 October 2015 Portuguese legislative elections. The alliance (PAF, Portugal in Front) came first in the elections but fell short of a parliamentary majority. Despite upfront opposition from the new majority-holding parties, the PAF alliance accepted to form a minority government and Paulo Portas was re-conducted on 30 October 2015 as Deputy Prime Minister of Portugal's XX Constitutional Government. However, he stayed in office less than a month as his government's program was predictably rejected in Parliament and replaced by a Socialist Party government supported by the far-left parties.
Having ceased his functions as Deputy Prime-Minister on 26 November 2015, Paulo Portas presented himself in Parliament the following day to take up the position for which he had been elected on 4 October by the Lisbon electoral district. However, one month later (28 Dec. 2015) he announced his resignation from the CDS-PP Party leadership and from his elected position in Parliament on the grounds that "it was time for a new political cycle (...) and for a new generation" to take over the party leadership. Accordingly, on March 13 2016, Paulo Portas stepped down in acclaim at a special convention of his CDS-PP party where he was replaced by his longtime protegée and former government colleague- Assunção Cristas. Shortly afterwards, he became vice-president of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce—a non-remunerated position that allowed him to continue traveling to promote Portuguese enterprises abroad as he had been doing in the government. He left Parliament in June 2016 to return to political commentary on TV with a weekly show on TVI Portugal.
Paulo Portas has been involved in several controversies that raise questions about his character but he has not been shown to have broken the law:
In the early 1990s, Paulo Portas was editor-in-chief of the O Independente weekly newspaper and decided to do a cover story on what could be found in the garbage of famous Portuguese politicians and is said to have personally searched through trash bags in residential dumpsters. Whether he did or not, the cover story was never published but Paulo Portas' alleged garbage searching became something of an urban legend mentioned, inter alia, in the Portuguese Parliament by a Governor of the Bank of Portugal.
In 1993, Paulo Portas publicly embarrassed Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (then a prominent political figure, who would become President of Portugal in 2016) when he stated on TV that Marcelo was one of O Independente's sources albeit an unreliable one because he was prone to making up stories, such as when he gave an account of a political VIP dinner that had never taken place going as far as inventing that the soup served during the dinner was Vichyssoise. This did not prevent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in 1999 when he was leader of Portugal's Social Democratic Party (PSD), from seeking an elections alliance with Paulo Portas's CDS-PP that was initially agreed but collapsed shortly after due to Portas's involvement in the Moderna scandal (see below). Marcelo then had to resign from the PSD leadership and lost his opportunity to become prime-minister. Since then, in Portuguese politics, "Vichysoisse" (which is a cold soup) has served as a metaphor for "revenge that is best served cold" and for Portas's betrayal of his one-time allies—such as when he snatched the CDS-PP party leadership from his former party mentor Manuel Monteiro or when he undermined Pedro Passos Coelho in their coalition government.
In 1999 a scandal erupted concerning Universidade Moderna, a discredited private university that had to be closed down by the government. Among many instances of embezzlement and questionable spending, it was shown that Paulo Portas was provided free of charge a top-of-the-line Jaguar automobile by the university. Portas defended the Jaguar perk as recognition for work he did for the polling centre of the university. One of the university's deans later said at trial that Portas had specifically justified his choice of a Jaguar because it was 'very British' and that he had received other perks and payoffs that contributed to the university's financial insolvency. Portas was summoned to the trial, but ultimately no evidence of wrongdoing against him emerged. The case had a further twist in 2002 when Paulo Portas became government minister and allegedly arranged the dismissal of the Director of the Economic Crimes Department of the Portuguese Police Force—Maria José Morgado—because, according to her, she was investigating the Moderna Affair. When asked about her dismissal, Paulo Portas had no comment.
In 2002, when Portas committed his CDS-PP party to a government coalition with the PSD and became Minister of Defence he made sure to install himself in the historic seafront fort of São Julião da Barra just outside Lisbon. The fort had never been an "official residence" but had since 1994 been under direct control of the ministers of Defense and some had used it for private purposes. Paulo Portas was the first Minister of Defence to openly move into the fort, which resulted in the closing of most of the historic monument to the public and in new remodeling and upkeep costs for Portas's occupancy. He defended his move to the fort as "a gain for the State."
Immediately upon becoming Minister of Defence in 2002, Paulo Portas rescinded a previous contract for the purchase of nine EC-635 helicopters from European manufacturer Eurocopter Group on the grounds that the helicopters had not been delivered when stipulated. He then considered rescinding another existing contract for the purchase of twelve helicopters NH-90, manufactured by Nato Helicopters Industries (a subsidiary of Eurocopter Group) and buy American-made Blackhawk helicopters instead but he eventually authorized the NH-90 helicopters purchase in the amount of 420 million euros. Paulo Portas then went ahead with the purchase of twelve EH101 helicopters from manufacturer AgustaWestland at a total cost of 300 million euros for Portugal (that excluded EU co-financing). However the purchase price for the EH101s did not include their maintenance, which subsequently added an extra 120 million euros to the price and raised questions on whether the helicopter deals were in the best interests of Portugal both in terms of the high cost and the multiple configurations.
In 2002 Paulo Portas was Minister of Defence and after returning from an official visit to the US he declared that "he had seen irrefutable evidence of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction" but never specified what it was. The alleged existence of such weapons would eventually be shown to have been a fabrication of the George W. Bush administration, and, in 2011, one of Portugal's most prestigious generals publicly accused Paulo Portas of having deliberately lied as Minister of Defence back in 2002 and of not being fit to be a minister again (of Foreign Affairs, which Paulo Portas did become regardless).
There has been no material or circumstantial evidence whatsoever of Paulo Portas's involvement, as a perpetrator or otherwise, in Portugal's notorious Casa Pia Boys Orphanage sexual abuse scandal. However, in 2003 Paulo Portas's name came up following a report in French newsmagazine Le Point about underage male prostitution in Lisbon. By mentioning the participation of a "minister from the coalition party in office," Le Point seemed to point at Paulo Portas, who was the most prominent of the three CDS-PP "coalition party" male ministers in office at the time. According to Le Point, such perpetrator allegedly wore a long blonde wig when cruising for sex in Lisbon’s Eduardo VII Park and, as a result, was known in male prostitution circles as "Catherine Deneuve," which stuck as a nickname for Portas and is the reason why he is often caricatured in hostile social media with long blonde hair. Subsequently, during the Casa Pia trial, one of the defendants suggested Paulo Portas might be implicated by calling on him as a witness. Following the conclusion of the trial, Paulo Portas was publicly accused by some of the victims. In a different take on Paulo Portas's alleged role, he was also accused by a rival politician of using the Casa Pia scandal to tarnish his political enemies.
In 2004 it was discovered that Portas's CDS-PP party had deposited 1,065,250 euros through 105 low-denomination deposits into the party's accounts in an attempt to circumvent monitoring regulations on political party funding and possibly on money-laundering (see smurfing). It was factually established that CDS-PP fabricated the donor receipts (including some using comical names such as "Jacinto Leite Capelo Rego," which in Portuguese is an erotic pun on words) but the real source of the money was never identified. In investigating, the police suspected the Espírito Santo Group (on whose bank the money was deposited) to have donated that money in connection with a tourism development named 'Portucale' in Benavente that entailed the cutting down of thousands of protected cork trees, which Paulo Portas, through his (until then) best friend and party colleague Luís Nobre Guedes, allegedly facilitated in the final days of the government to which they belonged. Paulo Portas denied any illegality and was not directly implicated in the case, while Nobre Guedes took the blame (and stopped talking to Paulo Portas). However, in investigating this case, the police intercepted phone calls that motivated another investigation into the costly purchase of two submarines by the Portuguese State (see below). It turned out that in addition to the Espírito Santo Group's real estate subsidiary in charge of the Portucale project (ESAF) there was another trading subsidiary (ESCOM) that was also an intermediary in a major submarines deal, for which it had received 30 million euros in advance and which was judicially suspected to have been the source of the CDS-PP deposits as a kickback pay-off for the submarines intermediation.
As Minister of State and Defence in 2004, Portas was responsible for the decision to buy two submarines for the Portuguese Navy after reducing from three (with an option to buy a fourth) the original number of submarines that the previous government had indicated Portugal might buy from Germany's Ferrostaal industrial group. Paulo Portas also personally authorized that the agreed equipment for the two submarines be downgraded (without any reduction in price) by 30 million euros, which, coincidentally or not, was the same amount as paid to ESCOM (see above). The purchase was conducted through a sales intermediary named German Submarine Consortium (GSC) and the price of the submarines was between 712 million to 1.2 billion euros depending on calculations. The bill came due in 2010 and was a major factor in the budgetary crisis that erupted that year and led to political finger-pointing in what came to be known as "the submarines affair" (in Portuguese: "caso dos submarinos"). The deal also had an obscure "counterparts" provision for the German side to purchase Portuguese goods and provide equipment, that may have been overvalued by hundreds of millions of euros (again depending on calculations) giving plenty of margin for embezzlement schemes. Moreover, the deal was shown in Germany to involve corruption and two German executives were prosecuted and convicted in 2011 of bribery, including of the Portuguese consul in Munich, who said during the trial he had met with Paulo Portas in the context of the submarines' negotiations. A similar submarines deal in Greece was also shown to involve corruption and resulted in 2010 in the exoneration of the chief executive of Ferrostaal and in 2012 in the arrest of Paulo Portas's Greek Defence Minister counterpart Akis Tsochatzopoulos. In Portugal, a Navy commander and a former PSD leader (who was one of Portas's favourite targets when he was director of the newspaper "O Independente") have been implicated of receiving at least 1 million euros.
To date, there is no evidence that Paulo Portas personally embezzled any funds from the submarines' purchase, and, since Portugal's 10-year statute of limitations for white collar crimes expired in 2014, he (or anyone else) can no longer be prosecuted even if incriminating evidence were to emerge some day. Still, the suspicions against Paulo Portas are unlikely to ever go away given the established facts that (i) he was the Minister in-charge at the time, which makes him the main figure in a controversial deal that, even if not tainted by his corruption, was disastrous for Portugal's finances; (ii) in contrast with his usual incisiveness on all other affairs of state, Paulo Portas has consistently been evasive about his role and any details of the submarines purchase; (iii) his CDS-PP party was shown to have been in close contact with one of the submarines' intermediaries (ESCOM) and to have received sizeable donations from fabricated sources shortly after (see Portucale case above); and (iv) Portas himself is on record saying he could not talk about the submarines deal on a cell phone for fear of being wiretapped, which suggests he might have had something to hide.
Paulo Portas has defended himself by claiming the deal was agreed before he became Minister and that he had no contact with the two intermediaries found guilty of corruption in Germany. In 2012, Portugal's Attorney-General Office (Ministério Público) considered Paulo Portas a suspect in its ongoing investigation into the deal and found that the government files on the submarines' purchase from when Portas was Minister of Defence "had disappeared." In a separate investigation in 2011, the Attorney General Office charged 10 suspects with fraud in connection with the contract's counterparts clause but Portas was not among them. In 2014, all 10 suspects were declared not guilty by the court and it was revealed that Portas had participated in the judicial proceedings as a witness. In April 2014, the Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã claimed the price of the submarines had been further aggravated by as much 220 million euros (fees and interest) by costly financial swap contracts agreed to by Paulo Portas. In a written repply to the editor, Paulo Portas defended the rationale and conformity of the financial arrangements underlying the submarines' purchase. In 2014 the Portuguese Parliament set up an inquiry commission to the submarines deals that found no evidence of wrongdoing; but the opposition parties denounced the inquiry proceedings and conclusions as manipulated by the ruling PSD/CDS-PP government coalition that was also in power when the submarines were purchased in 2004.
Similar to the submarines scandal, but much less talked about, Portas was also responsible for the acquisition of 260 Pandur armoured combat vehicles for 364 million euros when he was Minister of Defence. He signed the contract during his final days in office, and, like for the submarines, it included a vague counterparts provision for the manufacturer to spend 516 million euros on Portuguese merchandises and investments. However, at least 400 million euros of those counterparts expired unused and the few investments made allegedly benefited a personal friend of Portas. In addition, there were major mechanical problems with the first batches of Pandur vehicles delivered and a subsequent Minister of Defence cancelled the balance of the purchase. As in the submarines' scandal, Paulo Portas has not been shown to have committed any illegalities, but there were major suspicions and an official criminal investigation was launched in 2010 and in 2016 Portas was referenced (but not accused) in the context of that investigation.
In 2005, Paulo Portas was also responsible for buying 24 torpedoes for the two submarines he had authorized and he signed off on the purchase during his final week in office leaving it to the next government to pay for the 46 million euros price tag. The contract also had a counterparts clause for the Italian manufacturer (Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei - WASS) to buy or invest in Portugal. Like for the submarines and combat vehicles, Portugal could not afford to buy the torpedoes, which has raised questions on Paulo Portas's motivations to close these major deals at all cost while he was still minister of Defence.
When the government changed in 2004 and Portas stopped being Minister of Defence, he took with him 61,000 xerox copies of, presumably, Ministry files and documents, thus overruling the Ministry of Defence's strict forbiddance, on national security reasons, of the copying of internal documents. This generated the impression that Portas was in possession of confidential and compromising intelligence to be used for personal purposes. A partial investigation by the Ministério Público in 2009 found no evidence of wrongdoing.
In 2011 Paulo Portas was accused in Parliament of having negotiated hastily and on very detrimental terms for Portugal the sale of insolvent Portuguese bank Banco Português de Negócios (BPN) while on his first official as minister of foreign affairs to Angola. Shortly after, BPN was sold to Angola's Banco Internacional de Crédito (BIC) group for a token payment of 40 million euros with the Portuguese Treasury absorbing virtually all of BPN's bad assets and non-deposit liabilities at a cost of over 2 billion euros, plus unforeseen and potential liabilities that would eventually raise the total cost significantly above that. Paulo Portas refuted the accusation saying BPN "was not on the agenda" of his visit to Angola. Whether he negotiated BPN or not, Paulo Portas's low-key stance on BPN after he became minister contradicted his prior stance when he was in Parliament and was a ferocious critic of bailing out BPN at high cost for the Portuguese Treasury.
In 2013, when Portas resigned "from the Government" (not just as Minister of Foreign Affairs) he explicitly stated in his press communiqué that his resignation was "irrevocable" but then agreed to stay on in the government in a higher capacity as Deputy Prime-Minister. There was much speculation on whether Portas resignation was an impulsive but genuine gesture of protest, a plan that backfired to distance himself from an increasingly unpopular government, or a power-grabbing gamble that he ultimately won. Either way, he reinforced his public image as a cunning, power-hungry politician as noted, among others, by former President Mário Soares, who publicly accused Paulo Portas of being a tergiversator ("salta-pocinhas" in Portuguese). President Mário Soares also publicly voiced a popular but unsubstantiated conspiracy theory scenario whereby Portas was being blackmailed into not resigning through incriminating evidence on his role in the submarines and Pandur vehicles purchases. Portas explained his change of mind about resigning saying he "preferred to pay a reputation price for a better future" and that "the country comes first."
Paulo Portas’ name has come up in connection with questionable deals conducted by subsidiaries of Portugal’s disgraced Espírito Santo Group (ESG) that imploded in 2014 defrauding creditors, shareholders, and potentially the Portuguese banking system and Treasury. The first such instance was in 2004, when the Portuguese police intercepted a phone call from a top financial officer of Portas’ CDS-PP party to an ESG manager reminding him that "we (presumably CDS-PP) put in the hands of your people (presumably ESG) more than 400 million euros in the last three weeks" referring to unspecified business deals that likely included ESG's subsidiaries ESAF and ESCOM involved in, respectively, the "Portucale" and the "submarines" cases (see above). Subsequently, in 2013, while he was minister of Foreign Affairs, Paulo Portas personally promoted an ill-fated luxury resort development (Herdade da Comporta) by Rioforte Investments SA, an ESG subsidiary that triggered the ESG’s group’s collapse dragging with it Portugal's telecommunication's giant Portugal Telecom that was heavily exposed to Rioforte unsecured debt. In 2015, it also emerged that in a last-ditch effort to save GES from bankruptcy, its chairman-Ricardo Salgado-had contacted Paulo Portas in 2014 in a non-successful attempt to obtain emergency financing with the support of the government in which Portas was the Deputy Prime-Minister. In a subsequent parliamentary inquiry, Paulo Portas admitted meeting with Ricardo Salgado but denied interceding on his behalf at Cabinet level or even knowing in advance of the decision to resolve Banco Espírito Santo, which had been until then the flagship of the ESG group.
Portas is a lifelong bachelor, who has never publicly assumed a romantic relationship and who invariably attends his many official functions unescorted or in the casual company of socialite women known to be attached to other men. He has no children but has expressed his wish to "become a father one day." Portas is known to be a fan of Parov Stelar, a well-known Electro Swing musician, and a supporter of Lisbon football team Sporting Clube de Portugal. He is also reported to be a compulsive cigarette smoker, a cinephile and a history-buff. Officer of the Order of Civil Merit, Spain (17 August 1998)
Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Merit, Poland (16 July 2012)
Sash of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico (7 October 2014)
Commander of the Order of the Star of Romania, Romania (16 October 2016)
Grand-Cross with diamonds of the Order of the Sun, Peru (16 October 2016)