LISBON (Reuters) – The Judicial Police have arrested the National Director of SEF immigration and border service,  the Secretary-General of the Justice Ministry and the head of National Notary and Registry Institute and eight others as part of an investigation into corruption linked to the issuing of so-called “golden visas” to wealthy foreign investors. They will appear before an investigating judge today (Friday 14th November 2014)

Searches were also taking place at the Environment Ministry on Thursday evening. There were also unconfirmed reports that the Minister of Home Affairs, Miguel Macedo, had been spoken to by police detectives.

Macedo’s law firm had earlier Thursday been visited by detectives.

Opposition parties have already called on the Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas, who has taken charge of this visa programme to appear before parliament.

A statement issued by PJ police said a total of 200 detectives were called in for this operation which spanned the length of the country. Police added that today’s crackdown is the result of an investigation which has been ongoing for several months.

The Prosecutor General’s office said several arrests were made and searches carried out in different locations across Portugal as part of the investigation into the visas and other matters on suspicion of corruption, influence peddling and money-laundering. The prosecutor’s office said there were 60 raids ongoing nationwide and that several arrest warrants had been issued.

The official Lusa news agency said Manuel Palos, head of the SEF immigration service, was one of those detained and SEF premises were searched. A police source, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the detention to Reuters but would not say if Palos was being charged with any crime.

The golden visa program was launched by the government in late 2012 during a debt crisis and gave residency permits to non-EU citizens who invested in real estate. It has brought in more than one billion euros in much-needed investment since, mainly from Chinese buyers of property willing to invest more than 500,000 euros ($623,300) in real estate in Portugal