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Portugal’s prime minister offers his resignation as his government is involved in a corruption probe

The announcement came hours after police arrested his chief of staff while raiding several public buildings and other properties as part of the probe

Antonio Costa
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa at the PM Official Residence on October 09, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal.Horacio Villalobos (Corbis via Getty Images)

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said Tuesday he was offering his resignation after his government was involved in a widespread corruption probe, sending a shock wave through the normally tranquil politics of the European Union member.

The 62-year-old Costa, Portugal’s Socialist leader since 2015, asserted his innocence but said in a nationally televised address that “in these circumstances, obviously, I have presented my resignation to the president of the republic.”

The announcement came hours after police arrested his chief of staff while raiding several public buildings and other properties as part of the probe.

The state prosecutor’s office said the Supreme Court was examining suspects’ “use of the prime minister’s name and his involvement” when carrying out allegedly illicit activities. It said the minister of infrastructure, João Galamba, and the head of the environmental agency were among those named as suspects.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is expected to accept Costa’s resignation. Costa teared up while thanking his family for their support. “I totally trust the justice system,” he said. “I want to say eye to eye to the Portuguese that my conscience is clear of any illicit or censured act.” He acknowledged that he was not “above the law.”

An investigative judge issued arrest warrants for Vítor Escária, Costa’s chief of staff, the mayor of Sines, and three other people because they represented a flight risk and to protect evidence, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

It said that the Minister of Infrastructure João Galamba and the head of the country’s environmental agency were among those named as suspects.

The judge is investigating alleged malfeasance, corruption of elected officials, and influence peddling related to lithium mine concessions near Portugal’s northern border with Spain, and plans for a green hydrogen plant and data center in the southern coastal town of Sines.

The raids included the premises of the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Sines town council, private homes and offices.

The prosecutor’s office said that the probe has determined that the “suspects invoked the name of the prime minister” when carrying out their allegedly illicit activities. Costa, a Socialist, has been in power since 2015.

Portugal’s lithium mines and green hydrogen projects are part of the continent’s green initiative being pushed by the European Union.

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