LISBON (Portugal) – Portuguese police arrested Prime Minister António Costa’s chief of staff while conducting multiple searches as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, the public prosecutor’s office announced on Tuesday.
The investigating judge issued arrest warrants for Vitor Escarria, Mr. Costa’s chief of staff, the mayor of Sines, and three others because they pose a flight risk and in order to protect evidence, the prosecution noted in a press release.
The suspects include Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba and the head of the country’s environment agency.
The judge is investigating allegations of embezzlement, corruption of elected officials and influence peddling linked to lithium mining concessions near Portugal’s northern border with Spain, as well as plans to build a green hydrogen plant and data center in the coastal city of Sines.
The inspections took place in the buildings of the Ministries of Environment and Infrastructure, the Sines municipal headquarters, as well as in private homes and offices.
The prosecutor’s office said the investigation concluded that “the suspects used the name of the prime minister” in carrying out their alleged illegal activities.
Antonio Costa, a socialist, has been in power since 2015.
Lithium mines and green hydrogen projects in Portugal are part of the continent’s green initiative supported by the European Union.