Police in Portugal have uncovered potential water testing fraud involving a laboratory.

Operation “Gota D´Água” led to the arrest of 19 people for allegedly falsifying analyses of water intended for human consumption. Those detained are aged between 25 and 61 years old and are accused of a range of crimes, including abuse of power and document fraud.

Polícia Judiciária carried out 60 searches, targeting several individuals, companies, and public entities in different regions across the country.

The investigation focused on the potential fraudulent activity of a laboratory responsible for collecting and analyzing water intended for human consumption as well as other sources of water, such as wastewater control. The firm is Laboratório Regional de Trás-os-Montes (LRTM), and a spokesperson told local media that the company is cooperating with investigators.

Accused of testing and analysis failures
Police said this lab, accredited for water quality control and based in Mirandela, falsified sampling and analysis procedures relating to water control for human consumption with the help of certain employees of other agencies and elected officials.

Those arrested included lab staff, public servants, and a local councilor.

The scheme aimed to reduce lab costs, but actions jeopardized the trust and reliability in test results and the quality of water consumed by people in affected regions said investigators.

The operation carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Porto also involved the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) and the Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority (ERSAR).

At a court hearing involving 19 defendants, 18 were released, and 17 were ordered not to contact other defendants and witnesses or to frequent certain places.

The elected official was prohibited from having contact with defendants and witnesses in the process and with any other council employees or third parties who carry out work involving the environmental and quality control of a range of water-related activities.  

The accused director of the lab must not contact defendants, witnesses, or any lab employees. They also had to hand over their passports and remain at home under house arrest.

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