Bombshell over ‘political meddling’ in central bank business - PSD delivers 12 questions
Current governor of the Bank of Portugal, Mário Centeno (PM Costa's former minister of finance)

Bombshell over ‘political meddling’ in central bank business – PSD delivers 12 questions

Social democrats stop short of demanding parliamentary inquiry

Portugal’s main opposition party in parliament – centre-right PSD – has submitted 12 questions to prime minister António Costa, seeking clarification over statements made by former governor of the Bank of Portugal Carlos Costa on the resolution of Banif bank and removal of Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos from the board of BIC.

In the request, which PSD leader, Luís Montenegro announced on Tuesday evening in Guarda, PSD members write that Carlos Costa has “made statements about alleged political meddling by the prime minister, António Costa”. The prime minister has described these statements as “false and offensive” and said that he will sue Carlos Costa.

The PSD parliamentary group claims ts set of questions are justified on the basis that it is “of the utmost importance that a thorough investigation of the interactions between the Prime Minister and the former Governor” is carried out, and it is “in the national interest” that the prime minister provide “the necessary clarifications as soon as possible.”

The party has stopped short of demanding a parliamentary inquiry – something CHEGA has already done, but is unlikely to be able to carry through with by dint of the fact that it rarely unites any kind of political consensus.

Said Luís Montenegro, his party “is not one of those that propose parliamentary committees of inquiry every week”, although it will not rule out taking such a route in future.

“We may even have a parliamentary inquiry into this matter,” he said. “I don’t know. But for now, today, we are addressing concrete questions to the prime minister.”

And these are as follows:

Four questions on Mr Costa’s “intervention in the process of evaluation of the suitability of Isabel dos Santos for the management of EuroBIC” – the Portugal-based offshoot of Angolan bank BIC.

First, PSD wants to know, “whether the prime minister confirms that he spoke by telephone to the then governor of the central bank “approaching him regarding a possible decision by the Bank of Portugal on the suitability of … Isabel dos Santos for the purposes of authorisation to perform duties on the Board of EuroBIC.”

If he did, was it in the context that “he disagreed with a possible non-recognition of the suitability” of the Angolan businesswoman – because she was the daughter of the President of a friendly country, or because it was considered inopportune to do so at that time?

“Were you contacted by Isabel dos Santos and/or (her colleague) Fernando Teles following the meeting they had with Carlos Costa in which the assessment of their suitability for the purposes of performing management functions at EuroBIC was discussed?” the PSD questions continue – and if this question is answered in the negative, the party wants to know how the prime minister knew that the Bank of Portugal “was in the process of evaluating the suitability of these people and was seriously considering a decision of lack of suitability and consequent refusal or revocation of authorisation.”

The remaining eight questions addressed to the prime minister are about the process of the resolution of Banif, which is also covered in the book that started this furore – and which political pundit and State advisor Luís Marques Mendes has suggested is worthy of investigation by the Public Ministry.

So far, so very quietly. This subject is potential dynamite, and the PSD appears to be handling it with kid gloves.

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