Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio has distanced himself from former Macau governor General Vasco Rocha Vieira over the controversial transfer of $50 million before the handover. Mr Sampaio told the Lisbon-based Publico newspaper yesterday that the creation of General Vieira's Jorge Alvares Foundation, to which the funds were transferred, was a 'private initiative' by the general and had nothing to do with matters of state. The President stressed that such an initiative could 'never be binding' on Portugal. Mr Sampaio called the controversy an 'episode' that would have no effect on Sino-Portuguese and Macau relations. On Saturday, General Vieira said the controversy had violated Portugal's national dignity. Portugese media have said an independent inquiry in Macau found the transfer from the publicly funded Macau Co-operation and Development Foundation days before the December 19 handover to be illegal. There have been repeated demands for the return of the money. Reports in Portugal said the former governor was expected to tender his resignation as president of the Jorge Alvares Foundation at a board meeting in Lisbon last night (HK time). A source in Macau said some of the foundation's trustees were 'deadly opposed' to returning the $50 million. The foundation was set up to promote ties between Macau and Portugal.