Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa resigned on Tuesday over the investigation against him for possible prevarication, active and passive corruption and influence peddling in lithium and hydrogen deals, although he assured that he had not committed any illegal act.
"In these circumstances, obviously, I presented my resignation to His Excellency the President of the Republic," the Socialist said in a televised address, in which he pointed out that the post of Prime Minister is not compatible with the "suspicion of the practice of any criminal act".
Costa said he was "surprised" on Tuesday with the information of criminal proceedings against him and said he was "totally available" to collaborate with the justice system, but denied the accusations and stressed that he is leaving "with a very clear conscience".
"I want to say, and I look the Portuguese people in the eye, that the practice of any illicit act or even a reprehensible act does not weigh on my conscience", said the politician, who nevertheless considers that he should resign because "the dignity of the functions of prime minister" is not compatible with any suspicion.
After his resignation, the next steps to be taken will be decided by the president, the conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who has the power to dissolve the Assembly of the Republic and call elections if he deems it necessary.
Costa did not want to advance or deny whether he will be a candidate in possible elections: "The last thing I will do is condition or publicly pronounce myself on the decision that the president will take".
The Public Prosecutor's Office announced in a statement on Tuesday that it was investigating Costa and several members of his cabinet for alleged crimes of prevarication, active and passive corruption, and influence peddling, in a case linked to lithium and hydrogen business.
The prosecutor's office carried out a search of "spaces used by the Prime Minister's chief of staff" and noted that several suspects have spoken of Costa's involvement in the case for "unblocking procedures".
The investigation, in which more than 40 sites have been searched, focuses on lithium mining concessions at the Romano and Barroso mines in the north of the country, as well as a project for a hydrogen power plant and another for the construction of a data centre, both in Sines.
The public prosecutor's office has issued arrest warrants for the Prime Minister's chief of staff, the mayor of Sines and two of his administrators in the company "Start Campus", as well as a lawyer, who will be brought before the courts for questioning.
The Minister of Infrastructures, João Galamba, and the president of the board of directors of the Portuguese Environment Agency were also declared "arguidos" (formal suspects, a figure prior to indictment).