Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa addresses the nation to announce he has submitted his resignation letter to the President of the Republic, at Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 07 November 2023. EFE/EPA/JOSE SENA GOULAO

Portugal’s prime minister resigns over corruption probe in lithium deal

Lisbon, Nov 7 (EFE). – Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned on Tuesday due to the investigation against him for possible embezzlement, active and passive corruption and influence peddling in lithium and hydrogen deals, although he assures that he did not commit any illegal act.

“In these circumstances, of course, I have submitted my resignation to His Excellency, the President of the Republic,” the socialist said in a televised intervention.

Costa said he was “surprised” on Tuesday with the information of a criminal case against him and was “totally available” to cooperate with any legal investigation, but he denied the accusations and stressed that he leaves “with a very clear conscience”.

“I want to say, and I look into the eyes of the Portuguese, that the practice of any illegal or even reprehensible act does not weigh on my conscience,” said the politician.

However, he stressed that he believes he must resign because “the dignity of the functions of Prime Minister” is not compatible with any suspicion.

After his resignation, the next steps will be decided by the president, the conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who has the power to dissolve the Assembly of the Republic and call elections if he deems it necessary.

“The last thing I will do is condition or publicly announce the decision that the president will make,” said Costa, who also did not advance nor deny whether he will be a candidate in a possible election.

So far, the President called a meeting with the political parties for Wednesday and a session of the Council of State for Thursday.

The Public Ministry announced in a statement Tuesday that it was investigating Costa and several members of his cabinet for alleged crimes of prevarication, active and passive corruption, and influence peddling in a case related to lithium and hydrogen deals.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office carried out a search of “premises used by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff” and noted that several suspects had spoken of Costa’s involvement in the case for “unblocking procedures”.

The investigation, in which more than 40 locations have been registered, focuses on the lithium exploitation concessions in the Romano and Barroso mines, in the north of the country, as well as a project for the production of hydrogen energy and another for the construction of a data center, both in Sines.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued warrants for the arrest of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, the Mayor of Sines and two of his administrators in the “Start Campus” company, as well as a lawyer, who will be brought before the judiciary for questioning.

The Minister of Infrastructure, João Galamba, and the President of the Board of Directors of the Portuguese Environment Agency were also declared “arguidos” (formal suspects, a figure before the accusation). EFE cch-pfm/mcd