António Costa
António Costa is hurt, but also confident that the separate inquiry into suspicions over his potential involvement in the alleged 'faciliating' of business dealings with the government will come to nothing. Image: TIAGO PETINGA/LUSA

PM launches “harsh criticism of Portuguese Justice”

Costa’s onslaught follows equally strong message from president of Supreme Court 

Just two days since hearing the investigation against him is not in any way being speeded up towards the swift conclusion he wants, Portugal’s ‘caretaker prime minister’ António Costa has been credited with launching “harsh criticism against Portuguese Justice”.

SIC Notícias this morning writes with “Costa admits to being hurt” by the suspicions that link him with investigations into ‘Operation Influencer’ – the scandal that toppled his government last month.

The real punchline in SIC’s report came in the sentence: “Costa argues that justice should reflect on the way it makes investigations public without there being solid evidence of the practice of crimes”.

‘I am hurt but not rancorous’, he told rival stations CNN Portugal/ TVI – at the same time stressing that what journalists “can do is ask those who made the statement (implicating Mr Costa) and and those who took the decision to dissolve parliament, if they would do the same given what they know today….”

Says SIC, the prime minister (leading the caretaker government until elections on March 10) used the cases of former PS ministers Azeredo Lopes and Eduardo Cabrita to criticise the justice system in Portugal.

“There are two people I always remember (…). They tried to “swamp” Azeredo Lopes and Eduardo Cabrita “was even accused of murder, he must have been the only person in the world who was in the back seat and was accused,” he told his interviewers. 

Neither minister was ultimately condemned in any way, shape or form, but by referring to the unfair nature of their treatment, Mr Costa was clearly suggesting that he feels he has been equally poorly treated.

“I’m not angry. If you ask me if I’m hurt? I am (…). Anyone who doesn’t feel hurt is not the son of good people. I’ve been in public life for many years, I’ve practically held executive office since November 1995, almost 30 years. Nobody has ever questioned my integrity, my honesty or whether or not I’ve committed any kind of crime. After a lifetime, nobody likes to be put in this position”.

As to his future in politics, having previously admitted there was unlikely to be one, he told CNN/TVI : “we will see if there is still time…”

And this is the big question. At the outset when the PM’s name was linked to Operation Influencer, all calls were for this ‘doubt’ as to his potential involvement to be clarified ‘as soon as possible’, so as neither to damage the PS party’s chances in the upcoming elections, nor to scupper his own aspirations for a new job on the European stage.

Since then however, it has become increasingly clear that the ‘separate inquiry’ opened in the Supreme Court will run its course, in spite of the perceived urgency for full clarification behind it.

President of the Supreme Court Henrique Araújo told SIC on Saturday: “the Portuguese will have to wait for the end of the investigation that involves the prime minister”.

Araújo also “guarantees that until then no details on the case that led to António Costa’s resignation will be revealed”.

Pressed for further comments, Araújo – who only recently lamented politicians’ limp-wristed approach to tackling corruption – said these “will have to wait. Things take their normal course. The information that is requested cannot be from the President of the Supreme Court of Justice. The public prosecutor’s office is responsible for criminal action, so I can’t say anything (…) I’m not going to say anything else.”

The full interview given by António Costa to CNN/TVI is due to be broadcast this evening.

As all reports picking up on the interview have stressed, Mr Costa has “no doubt what the end of the story will be. I know I have had no benefit, no undue benefit, apart from the salary I’m paid”.

That isn’t exactly the terms of the inquiry, however. The inquiry is into whether or not the prime minister may have ‘facilitated business’ by ‘unblocking procedures’ with regard to lithium mines in Montalegre and Boticas. ND

Source material: SIC Notícias/ CNN Portugal/ Lusa