Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (C) flanked by the resigning Prime Minister Antonio Costa (C-R) chairs the meeting of the Council of State at the Belem Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 09 November 2023. EFE/EPA/TIAGO PETINGA

Portuguese prosecutors request preventive detention for the two closest to Costa

Lisbon, Nov 12 (EFE). – The Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday requested preventive detention for António Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, and consultant Diogo Lacerda Machado, who were detained in the case of alleged corruption that led to the resignation of the prime minister earlier this week.

The judge’s decision on the coercive measures used in the so-called “Operation Influencer” will be announced early Monday afternoon.

Escária was Costa’s chief of staff, and the prime minister said Saturday that he felt “embarrassed” after envelopes containing money were found in his office.

The other implicated, Lacerda Machado, was Costa’s best man at his wedding, and the Socialist politician had once described him as a “best friend.

On Saturday, however, he assured that Lacerda had not worked with his office for many years, and added: “he never spoke to me about this matter under any circumstances.”

Costa also stressed in his speech that “the reality is that a prime minister has no friends. And the longer he’s been in office, I must say, the fewer friends he has”.

There are three other detainees in the case: the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, and two administrators of the Start Campus company, Afonso Salema and Rui de Oliveira Neves.

The investigation focuses on lithium exploitation concessions in the Romano and Barroso mines, in the north of the country; a project for a hydrogen energy production plant; and another for the construction of a data center, both in Sines.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed Tuesday that there was an autonomous investigation against the Prime Minister established in the Supreme Court of Justice, after several suspects spoke of Costa’s involvement in the case for “unblocking procedures”.

The Portuguese press reported that Lacerda had mentioned the prime minister’s name and that he was his “best friend” in matters related to the construction of the data center in Sines.

On Sunday, however, the lawyer of one of the detainees told journalists upon his arrival at the court that there was an error in the transcription of one of the wiretaps in which Costa was allegedly mentioned, the mistake was recognized by the Public Ministry.

The wiretap, the only one by Lacerda Machado in which the resigned Prime Minister was mentioned, would apparently not refer to him, but to the current Minister of Economy, whose name is António Costa Silva.

Following Costa’s resignation, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced early elections for March 10. EFE