The Portuguese Prime Minister abandons his apron. Socialist Antonio Costa, riven by a corruption case that led to the indictment of one of his ministers and his chief of staff, announced his resignation on Tuesday.
“The duties of Prime Minister are not compatible with any doubt about my integrity. Governor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told the press, “In these circumstances, I submitted my resignation to the President of the Republic.” The latter announced in the afternoon that he had accepted this resignation.
The case involving the Portuguese Prime Minister, according to the prosecution, relates to suspicions of “embezzlement and corruption of political office holders and influence peddling” in the context of the allocation of licenses for lithium exploration and hydrogen production. The prosecutor said in a statement on Tuesday that during the investigation “the suspects also mentioned the name and authority of the prime minister.”
On suspicion of having intervened himself to “open the proceedings” in the context of this case, Antonio Costa will again be “the subject of an independent investigation”, according to the prosecution. Speaking to the press, Antonio Costa said that he was “surprised” by the opening of this investigation.
Raid on the Prime Minister’s residence
Investigators are more specifically interested in granting licenses for “lithium mine exploration” in northern Portugal, in a “project to produce energy from hydrogen” and in a “project to build a data center from Start Campus” in Sines, about a hundred kilometers south of Lisbon. On Tuesday morning, searches were conducted at the Prime Minister’s official residence and a number of homes, ministries and law offices.
Taking into account the elements collected by the investigators, “the risk of escape and the continuation of criminal activity”, the Justice issued “arrest warrants” against the chief of staff of António Costa, the mayor of De Sines and two officials from the Start Campus. Portuguese Infrastructure Minister João Galamba has been charged, as has the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Portuguese Environmental Protection Agency (APA).
The APA announced at the beginning of September that it had given the green light, under certain conditions, to a second project in the country to extract lithium, a metal used in the manufacture of batteries and essential for the energy transition.
Portugal, which has Europe’s first lithium reserve, is already the main producer, but its production is currently used entirely in ceramics and glassware. The first lithium mine project received, with conditions, a license from the APA last May. Environmental NGOs and part of the local population in this rural area compete for these mining projects.
After his huge electoral victory on January 30, 2022, which gave him an absolute majority that was supposed to guarantee the stability of his government, António Costa saw his popularity decline due to repeated scandals.
One of the most notable is “TAPgate”, named after the state-owned airline. More than a dozen ministers and secretaries of state have already left their posts over the issue. This scandal broke almost a year ago after it was revealed that a severance pay of €500,000 had been paid to TAP’s director. She then took over the management of an air traffic control company and a few months later was appointed Secretary of State for the Exchequer.