Former Macau official faces trial over masseuse

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am

A former Macau sports chief will stand trial for appointing a masseuse to a public job, but he says the appointment was made in the public interest and he did nothing wrong.

Manuel Silverio will be the second most senior former official to face trial since Macau reverted to Chinese rule in 1999.

The first hearing is scheduled for September 15 in the Court of First Instance, according to a lawyer familiar with the case, who asked not to be identified.

Silverio, former president of the Sport Development Board, confirmed his trial would start on September 15 - a day after his birthday.

A court clerk handling public inquiries declined to comment.

'My conscience is very calm. I am quite sure I did the right thing,' Silverio, 57, said. He is charged with abuse of power in relation to the masseuse's appointment in early 2002.

The Commission Against Corruption of Macau said in a statement in November 2007 that a former head of the Sport Development Board had been charged with abuse of power, without naming Silverio.

'This leader is suspected to have inappropriately hired a masseuse, who lacked relevant academic and professional qualifications, to assume the job of treating sports injuries,' the anti-graft agency said.

Silverio said the woman was capable of doing the job and her service was urgently needed at that time.

'She didn't have the degree but it was very urgent to have the service,' he said. 'She helped a lot of people, including athletes and Macau residents.'

He said there was a widespread misconception that masseuses meant sex workers in Macau. 'When we say 'this lady works in a massage centre', people automatically think she's a prostitute,' Silverio said. 'This is incorrect. Nowadays, we have many spas and health centres.'

The masseuse, who is in her late forties, was a Macau resident, according to Silverio.

She was hired for two to three months for 20,000 patacas a month, he said, and worked very hard to earn the respect of those receiving her service. 'Every day she started at 8.30am and worked until midnight,' he said.

Silverio began his career in the civil service in the late 1970s and worked his way up to the post of Macau's sport's chief before the handover. In 2003, he ceded the presidency of the Sport Development Board to focus on organising a series of international events, including the East Asian Games in 2005, the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) Games in 2006, the Asian Indoor Games in 2007 and the Macau torch relay for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Silverio retired from the civil service in 2008.

The East Asian Games incurred a 1.4 billion pataca overrun, prompting a public backlash against Silverio and Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, the culture minister who became Macau's chief executive last year. Silverio chaired the event's organising committee, while Chui was seen as the chief organiser.

The budget for construction of infrastructure for the Games was 2 billion patacas, but the final cost was 3.4 billion patacas. The main venue, the Macau Dome, cost 1.2 billion patacas, 80 per cent more than budgeted.

Former public works minister Ao Man-long is the most senior former official to have gone on trial in Macau since 1999.

In April last year, Ao was jailed for 28 years and six months on 81 counts of bribe-taking, money laundering and other crimes involving hundreds of millions of patacas.