Portuguese prime minister resigns amid corruption inquiry

António Costa is being investigated over the awarding of green hydrogen and lithium exploitation contracts

Portuguese prime minister António Costa has resigned after it was revealed he is being investigated as part of a corruption case.

Police on Tuesday raided Mr Costa’s official residence, the Sao Bento palace, two government ministries, lawyers’ offices and other buildings, as part of an investigation into the awarding of green hydrogen and lithium exploitation contracts. Five people were arrested, including the prime minister’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, and Diogo Lacerda Machado, a businessman and close friend of Mr Costa.

Prosecutors named João Galamba, minister of infrastructure, and Duarte Cordeiro, minister of environment and climate transition, as formal suspects in the case.

Soon after the raids, prosecutors revealed that the prime minister himself was under investigation by the supreme court, prompting him to meet with the president and present his resignation.


“It is my understanding that the dignity of the role of prime minister is not compatible with any suspicion regarding integrity, good conduct and, even less regarding suspicion of any criminal act,” Mr Costa, a Socialist, said after meeting with the president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

“Obviously, I have presented my resignation to his excellency, the president of the republic,” he said.

He added: “I want to tell the Portuguese people, face to face, that no illicit or even objectionable act weighs on my conscience.”

Mr Costa said he did not plan to run as a candidate for prime minister again in the future.

In a statement, the president said he had accepted the resignation and had called a meeting of political parties for Wednesday, before deciding how to proceed.

“In Portuguese constitutional history there has never been such a case of institutional discredit,” the constitutional expert Paulo Otero told Público newspaper. “What is being probed are not suspicions about a former governor or a former prime minister, but about a sitting prime minister.”

The hydrogen investigation focuses on whether certain Portuguese companies received favourable treatment when contracts were being awarded for exploitation in Sines, an industrial hub in southern Portugal. The awarding of contracts to exploit lithium in the Montalegre and Boticas mines is also being investigated.

Mr Costa had been in power since 2015, when, despite losing a general election he was able to form a government with the support of a broad left-wing alliance. His administration rolled back much of the austerity imposed by the previous government following Portugal’s financial bailout during the euro zone crisis. He was re-elected in 2019 and again in 2022, this time with a parliamentary majority.

However, his government has been rocked by a series of controversies and several ministers have been replaced during this legislature. In May, Mr Galamba tendered his resignation over a scandal linked to state-owned airline Tap, although Mr Costa kept him in his job.

Before his resignation, Mr Costa had been seen as a likely candidate to succeed Charles Michel as European Council president when the post becomes available at the end of next year.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain