Suspicions of corruption shake the Government of Portugal

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  • The secretary of state attached to the prime minister resigned this Thursday after granting a loan for a project that has not materialized

  • The Public Prosecutor's Office is investigating the case, while criticism of the Executive grows in the first major scandal after the absolute majority achieved in January

Suspicions of corruption ;n shake the Government of Portugal

The suspicions of corruption about the Deputy Secretary of State of the Portuguese Government, Miguel Alves, have forced him to resign this Thursday and have shaken the Prime Minister's Executive, António Costa, for the first time since he obtained the absolute majority in the legislative elections last January. Some suspicions that came to light at the end of October, when the newspaper Público that Alves had disbursed 300,000 euros, during his time as mayor of the municipality of Caminha, to a businessman as an advance for the construction of a convention center in the town. Two years later, the pavilion still hasn't materialized.

The Prosecutor's Officehas opened an investigation to clarify whether Alves, a person very close to the prime minister and who already accompanied him, During his time as Minister of Internal Administration and as Mayor of Lisbon, he made a mistake. some irregularity in the process. An investigation that adds to two other cases in which he is involved. accused of prevarication. The former Secretary of State agreed to He took office just two months ago, at the proposal of Costa, after more than nine years at the head of Caminha City Hall. Pressure from the opposition and from members of his own party have forced the prime minister to finally accept the resignation, despite initial reluctance. “We live in a rule of law in which happily no one is above the law,” Costa assured shortly after resigning.

Criticism of Costa

Alves's delay in submitting his resignation and Costa's rejection of a possible dismissal have affected the prime minister. The leader of the main opposition party, Luis Montenegro, has assured this week that the Secretary of State “is not sufficiently empowered to exercise the fullness of his office, as he is unable to respond to the doubts that hang over him” and has charged against Costa for not positioning himself for days. Criticism that has also occurred within his formation, the Socialist Party, such as that of the Minister of Public Administration in the previous legislature, Alexandra Leitão, who described Alves's permanence in office just a few days ago as “incomprehensible“.

The Secretary of State has defended his innocence in a process that, he maintains, has been totally transparent. According to Alves, the City Council decided advance the 300,000 euros, corresponding to a year's rental of the building, to manage to attract a private investment of eight million euros for the municipality. “The city councils are obliged to find solutions to attract investors, either through the offer of land or the exemption of taxes. And here there is always a risk“, he acknowledged this week in an interview with Jornal de Noticias after 10 days without appearing publicly.

Works not yet started

Although the pavilion should already be finished, the works have not started yet. Something that has put the spotlight on the promoter company, whose shareholders hide behind a complex network of companies based abroad. Alves assures that those responsible for the construction provided several pieces of evidence that justified the disbursement of the advance of 300,000 euros. “It is possible that 90% of the people think that I am stupid or a thief, but I am neither of these two things”, has assured the Secretary of State. The current mayor of the town, Alves's successor in office, affirms that the promoter is in control. advancing in the processpermits for the construction of the facility.

Alves's resignation is a serious blow to the Costa Executive, which is being demanded to act more quickly in these cases and to define the criteria to decide on what situations, members of the Government investigated by justice can be kept in office. Speaking to CNN Portugal, former Minister Leitão recalled this week that “the rule that prevailed in previous governments, of the Prime Minister himself, was that the people under investigation had to leave the Executive. “. An opinion that has also been defended by the president of the Transparency and Integrity association, Nuno Cunha Rolo. “Regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty, the question is whether a person investigated by justice can exercise the functions of a ruler.” The answer was given by the prime minister this Thursday.