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Prime Minister Costa: "Clear conscience"

Photo: Rene Rossignaud / AP

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa resigns. The reason is a corruption investigation. Costa said in a nationally televised address that he had a clear conscience but would not run for prime minister again. A prime minister must be above suspicion. "Under these circumstances," he said, he "naturally submitted his resignation." He said he was ready to cooperate with the judiciary.

Police had searched Costa's residence on Tuesday, as well as two ministries and other buildings. According to media reports, five people were arrested, including Costa's chief of staff, Vítor Escaría. It is about the suspicion of illegal practices such as bribery and acceptance of advantages in the awarding of concessions for lithium mining in Montalegre as well as the production of so-called green hydrogen in the city of Sines, the state news agency Lusa, the state television station RTP and other Portuguese media reported, citing official circles.

40 apartments and offices searched

In addition to the head of the cabinet, the detainees are the influential entrepreneur Diogo Lacerda and the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, as well as two other businessmen, RTP and Lusa reported. A total of 40 homes and offices were searched, including the ministries of infrastructure and the environment. What exactly the detainees are accused of was not initially known.

The opposition had already called for his resignation after the searches. Costa then canceled all appointments for Tuesday and immediately met with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Lusa and RTP reported. Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba and Environment Minister Duarte Cordeiro, as well as his predecessor in office, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, are listed as suspects.

The Montalegre region in the far north of the country is believed to have the largest lithium deposits in Europe, which are to be mined despite great resistance from the local population. The metal is important for the production of batteries. Near the city of Sines in the south of the capital Lisbon, a coal-fired power plant that was shut down in 2021 is to produce so-called green hydrogen using renewable energies in the future. Both projects are important building blocks for Portugal's phase-out of fossil fuels.

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