As an ex-presidential consultant, a former adviser to the World Bank, a financial researcher for the United Nations and a professor in the US, Artur Baptista da Silva's outspoken attacks on Portugal's austerity cuts made the bespectacled 61-year-old one of the country's leading media pundits last year.

The only problem was that Baptista da Silva is none of the above.

He turned out to be a convicted forger with fake credentials and, following his spectacular hoodwinking of Portuguese society, he could soon face fraud charges.

Baptista da Silva's conversion into the latest must-interview figure on the media circuit began when he turned up last April at Lisbon's main philanthropic institution, the Academia do Bacalhau, with a supply of business cards - which, it later turned out, bore false credentials - and an impressive-sounding dissertation entitled Growth, Inequality and Poverty: Looking Beyond Averages which, it also transpired, was "borrowed" from its writer, a World Bank employee, via the internet.


At the time, Baptista da Silva also claimed to be a social economics professor at Milton College - a private university in Wisconsin, US, which actually closed in 1982 - and to be masterminding a UN research project into the effects of the recession on southern European countries. He even, some reports say, tried to pass himself off as a former adviser to Portugal's President, Joaio Sampaio, and the World Bank.

Blessed with such a grand CV, Baptista's subsequent criticisms of the Lisbon Government's broad austerity cuts, as well as dire warnings that the UN planned to take action against it, struck a chord with its financially beleaguered population.

Baptista da Silva's comeuppance began when the UN confirmed to a Portuguese TV station last month that he did not work for the organisation. Further media investigations uncovered his prison record and fake university titles, though Baptista da Silva's claims to have studied economics have not been categorically disproven.