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António Costa moves closer to European Council Presidency

Atualizado: 23 de abr.

Tiago Petinga | Lusa

On Wednesday, the Lisbon Court of Appeal's found that there are no strong indications of the trafficking of influences in Operation Influencer - the case that brought down António Costa's government months ago.

In considering the appeal, lodged by the Public Prosecutor’s Office on bail terms delivered five months ago, judges ruled in favour of the defendants Vítor Escária and Diogo Lacerda Machado and cancelled the payment of bail. All the more serious measures were similarly dropped.

The judges said in their judgement that the suspicions levelled at António Costa are "mere proclamations based on deductions and speculation".

The decision is another “heavy defeat” for prosecutors who have already weathered heavy criticism over the whole case – including a mistake in the transcript of a wiretap, reportedly confusing his name with that of Economy Minister António Costa Silva.

Following the announcement, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, quipped that it is "becoming more likely" that there will be a Portuguese member of the European Council.

António Costa resigned last November after learning that his name had been mentioned by those involved in the Public Prosecutor’s investigation into lithium, hydrogen and data centre deals in Sines, prompting the president to dissolve parliament and call legislative elections for 10 March.

The so-called Operation Influencer involved at least 42 searches and led to the arrest of five people for questioning: the prime minister’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, two directors of the Start Campus company, Afonso Salema and Rui Oliveira Neves, and lawyer Diogo Lacerda Machado, a friend of António Costa.

In total, there are nine defendants in the case, including Infrastructure Minister João Galamba, the president of the Portuguese Environment Agency, Nuno Lacasta, the lawyer and former PS spokesman João Tiago Silveira and the Start Campus company.

Costa is the subject of a probe after suspects in a case related to deals on lithium, green hydrogen and a data centre in Sines said his name had come up to unblock formalities.

On the day of his resignation, Costa said that he not committed “any unlawful or reprehensible act”.

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