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Portugal’s Prime Minister resigns after being accused in a large-scale corruption case

Portugal’s Prime Minister resigns after being accused in a large-scale corruption case

(CNN) — Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, has tendered his resignation after the country’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) reported that he is under investigation in the context of a large-scale corruption case involving members of his government.

He said in a press conference on Tuesday, “I was surprised today by the information, which was officially confirmed by the press office of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, that a criminal investigation will be opened against me,” stressing that his conscience is clear. He is ready to cooperate with the authorities. He added: “Under these circumstances, it is clear that I have submitted my resignation to His Excellency the President of the Republic.”

Costa, who is also Secretary General of the Portuguese Socialist Party, has been Prime Minister of Portugal since 2015. He was elected to the position for the third time, by an absolute majority, on 30 January 2022.

Earlier on Tuesday, it was learned that he was being investigated in a corruption case involving his government, after the Attorney General’s Office issued an arrest warrant against Costa’s chief of staff and named one of his ministers as an official suspect.

The authorities are investigating possible cases of corruption, evasion and influence peddling in decisions related to the concession of two lithium mines (Romano, in Montalegre, and Barroso, in Boticas), the construction of a hydrogen plant in Sines, and the construction of a data terminal. The center is run by the “Start Campus” group also located in Sens. During the investigation, PGR says the suspects told authorities that Costa could have intervened to “open up” some of the operations under investigation.

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“Those references [al primer ministro y su presunta intervención] “It will be independently analyzed within the scope of the investigation initiated by the Supreme Court,” the PGR statement said.

Arrests in connection with the investigation in Portugal

Five people were arrested in connection with the investigation, including the director of the Prime Minister’s Office, Vitor Escaría, and the mayor of the southern coastal city of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas.

“Taking into account the items collected during the investigation and given the risk of escape, continued criminal activity, interference in the investigation and disturbance of peace and tranquility, the Public Prosecution issued arrest warrants out of flagrante delicto, the chief of police from the Prime Minister’s staff, the mayor of Sens, and two managers of the group.” Start Campus” and an attorney/consultant hired by that company,” the PGR statement read.

In addition to the five people in custody, another government minister and a public official have been named as official suspects in the investigation, although no charges have yet been brought.

“The Public Prosecution Office has also proceeded to identify other (officially suspected) defendants suspected of committing the acts investigated, namely the Minister of Infrastructure [João Galamba] and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Portuguese Environment Agency [Nuno Lacasta]“The statement adds.

Galamba was energy minister when some of the contracts investigated were awarded.

As part of the investigation, the authorities began searches on Tuesday in dozens of places, namely 17 homes, five offices or homes of lawyers, and 20 searches outside homes, including two ministries – Environment and Infrastructure – and offices used by the Prime Minister. of employees, PGR reported.

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In total, 154 Portuguese police and treasury personnel, as well as 17 prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service and three judicial judges, participated in the operations.

Portuguese subsidiary of CNN Costa has reportedly met twice this Tuesday with the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and both have clarified their agenda for the day.