A Clean Energy Scandal Brings Down Portugal’s Prime Minister
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As investment in renewable energy rises globally, so too does the potential for massive corruption. This proved true on Tuesday, when Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa resigned amid an explosive investigation into his administration’s handling of lithium mining and hydrogen projects.
“The dignity of the functions of prime minister is not compatible with any suspicion about his integrity, his good conduct, and even less with the suspicion of the practice of any criminal act,” Costa said in a tearful televised announcement on Tuesday.
While Costa assured viewers that he would be cooperating with authorities in their investigation, he maintained his innocence, adding that he is “not conscious of having done any illegal act or even any reprehensible act.”
Per NPR, the investigation involves “alleged malfeasance, corruption of elected officials, and influence peddling” in awarding concessions for lithium mines in northern Portugal, as well as a green hydrogen plant and proposed data center in the town of Sines. Portugal’s large lithium reserves are viewed as essential to the European Union’s green energy transition because the mineral is used in the batteries powering electric vehicles.
Costa’s announcement came hours after police raided several public buildings and detained Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária. Arrest warrants have also been issued for four other people in Costa’s inner circle, including the mayor of the town of Sines. Prosecutors additionally named infrastructure minister João Galamba as a formal suspect in the corruption probe. These suspects, according to a statement from the prosecutor general’s office, used Costa’s name and influence to “unblock procedures” related to the exploration concessions.
After taking office in 2015, Costa was re-elected with an absolute majority last year, though his administration has been plagued by scandal and allegations of misconduct ever since. In December 2022, his infrastructure and housing minister was forced to resign amid a controversy over an irregular severance payment made to a former board member of the state-owned airline TAP Air Portugal.
“It is a stage of my life that is finished,” Costa said in his announcement, adding that he will not be running for office again.