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Authorities nab Portuguese national convicted of hiring hit men to kill ex-wife

Photo Credit: Correio da Manhã

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : Federal authorities are holding a Newark-born Portuguese national who remained in the U.S. after he was convicted of plotting and paying for his ex-wife’s murder.

Manuel Albert Soares (Courtesy: Correio da Manhã )

The Portuguese government has requested that Manuel Albert Soares be extradited, and U.S. authorities said they intend to comply.

New Jersey State Police snatched him up following a traffic stop in Elizabeth after discovering the international arrest warrant.

Soares has a court appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Newark. He is being held in the Union County Jail.

Portugal’s highest court judge sentenced Soares on Oct. 16, 2008 to four and a half years in prison — a little more than  half the maximum — for attempted aggravated homicide after he originally was acquitted of the crime.

But he had already fled the country and was believed to be living on Polk Street in Newark, working as a mechanical engineer, records show.

Soares, now 55, and Maria Tereza Franqueira Mourao split up in September 1999, but they continued to live under the same roof with their two children until May 2005, says an international arrest warrant on file in U.S. District Court in Newark, a copy of which was obtained this morning by CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

They also remained business partners — operating a hotel management firm and a pair of McDonalds franchises, Portuguese authorities said.

She fired him in 2004 for stealing money and frequently missing work. Then, in May 2006, Soares offered a Russian businessman 10,000 euros to “take care of a person,” rather than lose money in a divorce settlement, according to the arrest warrant.

The man and a Russian colleague instead “played his game” — talking with Soares on the phone and receiving money and “written instructions from [him] about how the murder of his ex-wife was to be carried out,” which they took to police in the city of Porto, the warrant says.

The first set of instructions were in Russian but apparently had been produced through a software translation program and couldn’t be understood, authorities said. So he re-wrote them in Portuguese.

Soares set June 22 or 23 as as the target dates for the murder, gave the would-be killers a map of the area — with arrows drawn on it, directing the  purported killer to his 46-year-old wife’s home in the village of Braga — and specified that a gun be used, the international arrest warrant says.

He detailed her comings and goings, including that she took their childen to school in her Audi at 8:30 a.m. and got back home about 10 minutes later, in detailed letters, according to the warrant. Soares said she should be killed “in the moment when she gets out of the car,” with “two shots [to] the head,” one of the letters said.

He also mailed the would-be assasins 5,000 euros up front — half of the total contract for the hit — as well as a magazine clipping with a photo of the same Audi from the front AND back, and the license plate number scribbled on it, the warrant says.

Soares told them to use a stolen car or one with a bogus license plate, and to snatch her pocketbook to make it look like a robbery, it adds.

The killer then had to destroy the handbag and the gun and flee the country, Soares was recorded saying, in a series of phone calls made from various pay phones — in most cases, while investigators were secretly watching him.

A criminal court in Portugal cleared Soares of the charges in September 2007, after defense attorneys argued that no one had been hurt. By then, his wife had divorced him.

An appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling, calling it a case of “instigation” not punishable by any Portugese law.

Prosecutors took their case to the Portuguese Supreme Court of Justice, which on Oct. 16, 2008 overturned the lower court’s ruling, dubbing Soares “the man behind” and the “mediate perpetrator” of a planned murder — just cause for conviction, the justices said.

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