NOS News•today, 3:16 PM•Amended today, 4:08 PM
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has resigned after his official residence was searched today in an investigation into illegal deals involving lithium mining and hydrogen production in Portugal. Earlier today it was announced that Infrastructure Minister Galamba is a suspect in the case, which has been preoccupying the country for some time.
Northern Portugal is home to Europe’s largest supply of lithium, the raw material used for rechargeable batteries in smartphones and electric cars, among other things. So a lot of money is involved in its extraction and companies from home and abroad want to get in on the action. Action groups and municipalities are opposed to lithium mining.
In addition to the Prime Minister’s official residence, Galamba’s house and the Ministry of Environment were also searched. Costa’s chief of staff and a close friend of his have also been detained. The mayor of the city of Sines and two entrepreneurs are also in jail. There are plans for large-scale production of hydrogen in that municipality.
Severance pay of half a million
Costa, 62, said in a TV address that he was surprised by the charges and that he did nothing wrong. He tearfully thanked his family for their support during the eight years that he was Prime Minister.
Earlier today he had to explain to President Rebelo de Sousa about the complications in his government. Both have already clashed this year, with Minister Galamba also playing a leading role.
At the time it concerned a scandal at the national airline TAP, which had led to the resignation of Galamba’s predecessor. A dismissed TAP board member appeared to have received compensation of half a million euros, without the company providing clarity about this.
The top woman then had to testify before a parliamentary inquiry committee, and Galamba thought it was a good idea to prepare her for that hearing. He did not inform parliament of this.
Harmful to the image
When this came out, he initially claimed that TAP had come up with the plan to have the top woman briefed by him, but later he acknowledged that it came from his own mind. He then offered his resignation, but the prime minister refused.
In a TV speech at the time, Costa acknowledged that the TAP scandal was damaging to the image of his cabinet, but according to him, Galamba was not to blame. The conservative Rebelo de Sousa was furious about this and demanded that Galamba still leave, but that did not happen.
Costa, leader of the Socialist Party, had been prime minister since 2015. Since he was re-elected for the second time in January 2022, ten ministers and state secretaries had already left, for various reasons.