Portuguese PM António Costa in crisis after cops raid residence
Portuguese police raided Prime Minister António Costa’s official residence on Tuesday and detained his chief of staff, Vítor Escária, as part of a corruption investigation.
The probe is linked to lithium exploration schemes in the north of the country and a green hydrogen mega-project in Sines.
Police searches of the prime minister’s residence and the Ministries of Environment and Infrastructure are ongoing. In addition to Escária, Costa’s personal adviser Diogo Lacerda — one of the prime minister’s closest confidants — and Nuno Mascarenhas, the socialist mayor of Sines, have also been detained.
Costa’s Socialist government has enthusiastically backed numerous schemes to extract lithium in different areas of Portugal as part of the EU’s wider drive to secure critical raw materials, but those projects have been mired in controversy because of the low quality of the elements set to be extracted and the disproportionate environmental damage expected from the operations.
Portuguese news wire Lusa reported that Costa met with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa shortly after the raids began. That meeting has already concluded, but no information on what was discussed has been provided to the press.
Shortly after Costa left the presidential palace, state broadcaster RTP reported that Rebelo de Sousa had summoned Lucília Gago, Portugal’s attorney general.
Costa has been prime minister of Portugal since 2015, when he led a minority government backed by a coalition of left-wing forces and subsequently oversaw a tourism boom that fueled the country’s economic recovery after years of financial turmoil.
The prime minister was reelected in 2019 and most recently in snap elections held in 2022, when his Socialist Party unexpectedly secured an absolute majority of seats in the Portuguese parliament. Despite the scale of his victory, Costa’s latest government has been affected by a steady stream of scandals, and in less than two years more than a dozen members of his executive have resigned for a variety of reasons.
Although Portugal’s president has openly criticized Costa’s scandal-ridden government, he has refused to dissolve parliament and call new elections, arguing the move would be disruptive at a moment when the country is attempting to distribute the EU’s recovery funds.
Immediately after the police raids Tuesday, center-right opposition group Liberal Initiative called for Costa to resign, and for the dissolution of parliament if the prime minister does not go on his own.
This story has been updated.
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