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Prime Minister António Costa Resigns

António Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, as well as consultant Diogo Lacerda Machado and Nuno Mascarenhas, Mayor of Sines, have been detained as part of the searches carried out this morning at the ministries of Environment and Infrastructure.

The news is being advanced in several national media and mentions the arrest of two other company executives.

The searches are driven by irregularities within several lithium and green hydrogen businesses.

The Prime Minister spoke to the country today at 14:00, confirming his resignation, after admitting that he was under investigation by the Supreme Court of Justice into lithium and hydrogen projects.

This communication to António Costa’s country, from São Bento, was transmitted by the Prime Minister’s office.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the Prime Minister is the subject of an independent investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in an inquiry opened at the Supreme Court of Justice

“In the course of the investigations, it also emerged that suspects had invoked the name and authority of the Prime Minister and that he had intervened to unblock proceedings in the context as mentioned above. Such references will be autonomously analyzed within the scope of an inquiry initiated by the Supreme Court of Justice, as that is the competent forum,” reads a note released today by the PGR.

Before this note was released by the office of the leader of the executive, the Prime Minister left the Belém Palace, in Lisbon, after a meeting with the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, which lasted about ten minutes.

The Prime Minister was filmed on television entering the Belém Palace a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. through the entrance to Calçada da Ajuda and leaving around 1:10 p.m., through the same door.

In the morning, the head of state received António Costa at his request, following searches in government offices, including the official residence of São Bento, targeting the prime minister’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, who was detained for questioning.

Hours earlier, the prime minister’s press office confirmed to the Lusa news agency the existence of searches in the office of Vítor Escária, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, adding that there were no further comments from São Bento.

“We confirm that there are searches in the office of the chief of staff [Vítor Escária]. We do not comment on the action of the courts,” said a source from António Costa’s office.

The newspaper Público reported this morning that the PSP had searched several ministries and the Prime Minister’s official residence in São Bento.

The newspaper said that António Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, Costa’s close consultant, Diogo Lacerda Machado, the Mayor of Sines, the socialist Nuno Mascarenhas, as well as two company executives, have already been arrested.

The ministers of the Environment, Duarte Cordeiro, and Infrastructure, João Galamba, as well as the former Minister of the Environment, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, are being searched and will be asked to testify.

This is the first time there have been judicial searches at the Prime Minister’s official residence. The searches were targeted by Vítor Escária, António Costa’s chief of staff.

Economist Vítor Escária was appointed in August 2020 as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, replacing Francisco André, who took up duties as the permanent representation of Portugal to the OECD.

Vitor Escária, 48, economist and professor at the Department of Economics at ISEG – Lisbon School of Economics and Management, has thus returned to the office of António Costa, to whom he was economic advisor in the previous government.

Previously, Vítor Escária had been an economic advisor to former Prime Minister José Sócrates.

In 2019, at a time when he was an advisor to António Costa, he was involved in the process of unduly receiving an advantage in the case of trips paid for by Galp in the Euro 2016 football tournament.

“The defendants Álvaro Beijinha, Nuno Mascarenhas, Fernando Rocha Andrade, João Bezerra da Silva [former chief of staff], Jorge Oliveira, Susana Escária [ministerial office] and Vítor Escária [advisor to the Government] acted with the purpose of accepting the invitations made to them by Galp officials, despite knowing full well that they had only been addressed to them by forces of the public functions they performed and that they were not entitled to them.” He mentioned the accusation at the time.

With a degree in Economics in 1994 from the Higher Institute of Economics and Management (ISEG), Technical University of Lisbon, Vitor Escária completed his master’s degree at the same institution in 1997 and his PhD in 2004 from the Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, UK.

Samantha Gannon

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