Public prosecutors in Lisbon have filed corruption and forgery charges against four former TAP Airlines employees over millions of euros in "fictitious payments" the Portuguese carrier allegedly received from Sonair.

The Portuguese Public Prosecutor's Office has indicted Fernando Sobral, an ex-TAP board member, as well as three former employees of the Portuguese national carrier's maintenance unit: José Santos, Vítor Pinto and Pedro Pedroso, for corruption and forgery.

Prosecutors allege that between 2008 and 2009, Angolan carrier Sonair hired TAP and an intermediary, WorldAir, as part of agreements to maintain its aircraft. Sonair reportedly paid up to €25 million to TAP and WorldAir for services that were never delivered. The payments were then allegedly funneled to offshore company accounts owned by Sonair, with WorldAir receiving a 75% commission.

WorldAir could not be contacted for comment.

Lisbon prosecutors have also laid money-laundering charges against three Portuguese lawyers accused of assisting in the scheme.

Lawyers for Sobral, Pinto and Pedroso did not respond to requests for comment. Armindo Curto Fernandes, counsel for Santos, told GTDT Aviation Law News sister publication GIR that his client is innocent and that they intend to challenge the allegations in court.

Prosecutors declined to bring charges against TAP due to lack of evidence, according to a press release posted on the company's website. Corporate liability laws did not exist for public sector companies in Portugal at the time of the alleged offences, and were only introduced in 2013.

The airline contends that it has adequate compliance procedures in place to prevent misconduct but that individual employees have breached these rules and did not act in the interests of TAP.

TAP said that the alleged misconduct only came to light following a routine audit. The company then carried out an internal investigation before self-reporting its findings to the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Pre-trial hearings for the case are expected to start in September, when the investigating judge can confirm the indictment and send the defendants to trial.

It is understood that Portuguese prosecutors have been in contact with authorities in Angola, Germany and France over other deals linked to WorldAir.

TAP did not respond to requests for comment.

Counsel to TAP Uría Menéndez Proença de Carvalho  Adriano Squilacce in Lisbon

Counsel to Fernando Sobral Carlos Pedro da Silva in Coimbra

Counsel to Pedro Pedroso CBSM Advogados Pedro de Sá Nogueira in Lisbon

Counsel to Vitor Pinto Partner Antonio Barros in Lisbon

Counsel to José João dos Santos Partner Armindo Curto Fernandes in Lisbon