… as outgoing PM admits running in 2024 European Elections
Cynics may say it is all falling into place nicely: the Supreme Court is accelerating its investigation into whether or not there is any mud sticking to outgoing prime minister António Costa vis-à-vis the separate inquiry known as Operation Influencer, while he appears to have reconsidered his declaration that he “probably will never have another public role”, and, according to Expresso, “has admitted that he could run in the upcoming elections in Europe”.
That is not word for word what Portugal’s eight year prime minister actually said. His direct quote to the paper was “I am prime minister until March 28, after which we will see what happens to life and if the necessary things are clarified”.
The necessary things being a decision by the Supreme court that there is no evidence that Mr Costa ‘facilitated’ business dealings under the microscope of public prosecutors.
Operation Influencer effectively torpedoed Mr Costa’s absolute majority government – and he has given a number of interviews to show he is extremely upset about it. (The PM wanted President Marcelo to simply choose another prime minister and leave the government to continue in office.)
Now that this is a lost cause, there is the question of the PM’s future, the fact that he is highly regarded in Brussels, and that ‘suspicions’ should, after all, not be left to languish.
Thus, José Duarte Silva – the coordinator of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Supreme Court of Justice – has asked his colleagues at DCIAP (the central department of investigation and penal action) to send him the evidence they have on the question of the PM’s suspected ‘interference’ in matters under the Influencer probe: lithium mining/ green hydrogen and a massive data centre in Sines.
According to a legal source, Duarte Silva wants to conclude the investigation into António Costa “in the shortest space of time possible”.
Asked whether this means there could also be a rapid conclusion in the wider Operation Influencer, the source told Expresso: “No” – largely because the “documental and digital archive” seized in the unprecedented searches of the prime minister’s official residence in São Bento on November 7 “demands exhaustive analysis”. Nonetheless, Influencer’s investigation will be continuing apace, not least because the main suspects were released on much lighter bail terms that prosecutors had called for, showing that a judge did not rate the public prosecutors’ evidence as highly as public prosecutors did.
Says Expresso, the tapping of phone conversations that justified the detention of the five Influencer accused, did hear the name of António Costa referred to a number of times – “principally in conversations between the two directors of Start Campus (the company behind the data centre) and Lacerda Sales (the prime’s ‘best friend’) who had been hired as a consultant for the project.
“João Galamba, the former infrastructure minister who resigned as a result of the case, also spoke the name of the prime minister”, says the paper.
There has been some question as to whether the mentioning of the name could have been confused with the name of the economy minister, António Costa Silva – but this doesn’t explain phone taps like the one in December last year, where the two Start Campus directors were wondering what to do about the “resisting of (their) interests” by the president of power network REN. “What do you think it needs”, Afonso Salema was reportedly heard questioning Rui Oliveira Neves. “A call to the prime minister?”
Expresso stresses: “It is never clear that Costa interfered to unblock the (data centre) project”. ND
Source material: Expresso