Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa resigns over corruption scandal

antonio costa Portugal PMAntónio Costa

Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has resigned after being implicated in a corruption scandal. On Tuesday morning the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it was launching an investigation against him for possible prevarication, active and passive corruption, and influence peddling in lithium and hydrogen deals. Costa has acknowledged that he has not committed any crime, but has decided to put an end to eight years of a government that in January 2022 had won a historic absolute majority; reaffirming him as one of the great leaders of the European left.

“In these circumstances, obviously, I am submitting my resignation to His Excellency the President of the Republic,” the Socialist announced in a televised address, in which he pointed out that the office of prime minister is not compatible with the “suspicion of the practice of any criminal act”. “I have been surprised today by the opening of a criminal case against me. Obviously I am fully available to collaborate with the justice system in everything it deems necessary to ascertain the truth,” Costa said.

The Portuguese Socialist Party did not make a statement until Tuesday afternoon, and on its social networks thanked Costa for “his total dedication to the governmental functions entrusted to him”.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office has carried out a search of more than 40 places on Tuesday, including the “spaces used by the chief of staff” in the Prime Minister’s official residence. In addition, the public prosecutor’s office has acknowledged that several suspects have directly implicated Costa for “unblocking procedures”. The investigation focuses on lithium mining concessions in the Romano and Barroso mines in the north of the country, as well as a project for a hydrogen energy production plant and another for the construction of a data centre, both in Sines.

At the same time as the searches, the police arrested the prime minister’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária; the mayor of Sines, the socialist Nuno Mascarenhas; two administrators of the company Start Campus, Afonso Salema and Rui Oliveira Neves, the latter a partner in one of the largest and most important law firms in the country, Morais Leitão; and, finally, the lawyer/consultant hired by Start Campus, Diogo Lacerda Machado, a close friend of Costa and the best man at his wedding.

The Minister of Infrastructure, João Galamba, and the President of the Board of Directors of the Portuguese Environment Agency were also declared “arguidos” (formal suspects, a figure prior to indictment).

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