Portugal prime minister resigns amid corruption investigation
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said he is resigning, just hours after prosecutors detained his chief of staff in a probe into alleged corruption in his administration’s handling of lithium mining and hydrogen projects in the country.
Costa, who prosecutors said was the target of a separate investigation, announced the decision in a televised statement after meeting President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Tuesday.
The 62-year-old Costa, Portugal’s Socialist leader since 2015, defended his innocence.
“I totally trust the justice system,” he said. “If there are suspicions, then the judicial authorities are free to look into them…I am not above the law,” he added.
Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is expected to accept his resignation.
The opposition has demanded that the government step down with immediate effect.
Hours before the announcement, Portuguese police arrested Vitor Escaria, Costa’s chief of staff, during raids on several public buildings and additional properties as part of the corruption probe.
Prosecutors named Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba as a formal suspect and detained Costa’s chief of staff. The head of the country’s environmental agency was also named as a suspect.
The state prosecutor’s office has said that the country’s Supreme Court is looking at the “use of the prime minister’s name and his involvement to unlock” the activities being investigated.
Activities being explored by the investigating judge include allegations of malfeasance, corruption of elected officials, and influence peddling relating to lithium mine concessions near Portugal’s northern border with Spain, as well as plans for a green hydrogen plant and data centre in the town of Sines, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Lisbon.