Portugal’s PM to sue former central bank governor
Carlos Costa (left) with António Costa (right) in the days when the former was in charge of Portugal's central bank. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

Portugal’s PM to sue former central bank governor 

António Costa takes exception to comments in new book

Portugal’s prime minister António Costa is reported to be ‘suing’ former central bank governor Carlos Costa (no relation) over comments the latter has made in a book about to go on sale.

“The Governor”, written by Observador journalist Luís Rosa, and published by Dom Quixote, is having its official launch next Tuesday at Lisbon’s Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

It centres on Mr Costa’s troubled 10-year mandate, in which he had to cope with numerous banking controversies, scandals and collapses.

Mr Costa is not the only politician with whom Carlos Costa had to deal – but he appears to be the only one so far taking legal action.

The reason is that Carlos Costa claims António Costa tried to intervene in his decision to remove ‘Africa’s richest woman’ (in those days) –  Isabel dos Santos – from the board of BIC bank.

These days Ms dos Santos lives in Dubai. She is wanted for questioning by various banking and fiscal authorities, and has been generally ‘outed’ by international journalistic investigations as corrupt. As of June this year, Isabel dos Santos has been cited in no less than 17 criminal inquiries opened by DCIAP (the central department of criminal investigation and penal action) which are being investigated by prosecutor Rosário Teixeira, explains Observador.

But at the time Carlos Costa wanted her off the BIC board, Ms dos Santos’ influence was riding high. As such, she was reportedly furious at the attempt to remove her and enlisted all the support she could muster: among ‘heavy hitters’ in this regard being the prime minister António Costa.

All this is explained by Observador  in a pre-publication of extracts from the book, which goes on with the story: “the head of government did not ignore Isabel dos Santos’ messages and decided to contact the governor of the Bank of Portugal.

And what António Costa apparently said was: “One cannot treat badly the daughter of the President of a country that is a friend of Portugal.” 

Costa tells Luís Rosa: “It certainly wasn’t the easiest time of my life, and made me  fear for my safety…”

As events showed, “neither the pressure of António Costa nor of other protagonists in Portuguese political life worked. Carlos Costa kept to his path and Isabel dos Santos (and another board member) were substituted…” writes Rosa.

The book is clearly full of revelations and backstage intrigue. Carlos Costa refers to the Luanda Leaks ‘scandal’ that finally outed Ms dos Santos, as being the point where everyone who had “closed their eyes” to what had been going on finally accepted that there was little more they could do.

This time”, writes Rosa “António Costa did not call Carlos Costa. Pragmatism also knows how to recognise that when someone falls into disgrace, they can no longer be saved”.

Last night António Costa was denying the claims made by Carlos Costa, inferring that he “will be suing” the retired banking boss.

The prime minister said Carlos Costa’s declarations “are offensive to my good name, my honour and consideration. I have contacted Dr Carlos Costa, who has not retracted (what he said) nor apologised, and therefore my lawyer will be taking the adequate legal steps”, the PM told reporters.

That this latest brouhaha has erupted in a week when Mr Costa’s deputy secretary of state has finally been forced to resign under a cloud of very dubious questions is all the more damaging for a government that appears to have been mired in unseemly allegations for weeks.

Opposition PSD social democrats have said this particular ‘gem’ is even news to them. “The prime minister should respond to the country”, the party’s vice-president António Leitão Amaro has told SIC, as “the inference is that he tried to interview with an independent institution…

“O Governador” is already on sale via Wook, and billed as “a fundamental document to understand a particularly important period in our recent history, from the eyes of one of its principle (and most discreet) protagonists”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com