Parliament authorises president to fly to Qatar for World Cup match

President Marcelo ‘caught up’ in ugly defamation battle

Both PM and former governor of central bank seek president’s expert witness

Conflicting reports today suggest President Marcelo is about to be embroiled in the ugly defamation battle between prime minister António Costa, and the former governor of Portugal’s central bank Carlos Costa.

Expresso claims: “Marcelo will be the PM’s witness against Carlos Costa”, although this headline slightly overplays the situation: the president has been asked to write about “two or three little questions”, a source close to the process explains, in order to bolster the PM’s claims that Carlos Costa defamed him in his recent book (see below for more details).

Expresso’s story came out this morning – so it is probably fair to say it was written yesterday. But today Lusa writes that “former governor of the Bank of Portugal Carlos Costa will bring a civil action against the prime minister for him to publicly retract insulting statements, and has called the president of Portugal as a witness”.

Thus, at a point in contemporary history where so few of the nation’s political leaders are being seen to be telling the truth, Marcelo looks like he is going to be put on the spot by opposing sides in the same battle.

At the centre of the clash between Costas is an excerpt in the book “The Governor” written by Observador journalist Luís Rosa, and published by Dom Quixote, in which Carlos Costa claims António Costa tried to intervene in his (Carlos Costa’s) 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 last year, Isabel dos Santos had been cited in no less than 17 criminal inquiries opened by DCIAP (the central department of criminal investigation and penal action). 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 was explained in pre-publication of extracts from the book, which said: “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 told 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.

António Costa reacted immediately this story broke, denying the claims made in the book, and declaring that he was suing the retired banking boss.

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.

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