Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon, amid the ongoing lithium corruption scandal. The PM presented his resignation to the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who accepted it.
The decision comes after the public Ministry searched the official residency of the PM and the ministries involved in the lithium exploration in Montalegre this morning, leading to arrests.
Antonio Costa told the country: “The dignity of the prime minister’s role is not compatible with any suspicion of criminal activity. I have, of course, submitted my resignation to the President of the Republic”.
He goes on to state his innocence, saying, “I want to say, looking into your eyes, that I do not carry any guilt of any unlawful act on my conscience. I have faith in justice”. Costa also said he was “surprised with the information that there will be a criminal case put forth against him” and that he is unsure what he is accused of.
The Prime Minister will maintain his position until he is replaced, calling it his “constitutional duty, legal and civic”.
In what was seen as his farewell speech, he thanked the Portuguese “for the trust placed in me over the past years” and his family.
“This is a chapter of life that comes to a close, and one that I close with my head held high, a clear conscience, and the same determination: to serve Portugal and its people just as I did on the day I became prime minister”, he stated.
This corruption case involves a business deal that gave the company Lusorecursos the right to the exploration of the lithium mine in Montalegre, although it was not part of the group of companies that were officially authorized.
Five people have been arrested surrounding the lithium corruption case, including businessman Diogo Lacerda Machado (a close friend of the PM), Vitor Escaria (Costa’s cabinet chief), and socialist Nuno Mascarenhas. Two businessmen from Sines were also arrested, including the CEO of Start Campus, Afonso Salema, and Rui Oliveira Neves.