Crime & Justice

Irregularities found in project linked to corruption case that led to Costa’s resignation

Lisbon, Nov 28 (EFE).- The Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF, for its acronym in Portuguese) detected irregularities in the construction of the Sines Data Center, one of the projects under investigation in “Operation Influencer” a influence peddling case in Portugal that led António Costa to resign as prime minister earlier in November.

The ICNF, a public institute, revealed Tuesday in a statement that the construction of the building did not respect an area of environmental protection and caused the destruction of habitats, according to an inspection carried out between November 13 and 17.

One of the protected temporary ponds was “partially covered” by the construction of the center, and the developer, Start Campus, has not yet submitted the environmental compliance report.

The data center is one of the projects under suspicion in “Operation Influencer,” along with a hydrogen energy production plant, also in Sines (south), and the lithium exploitation concessions in the Romano and Barroso mines (North).

One of the wiretaps in the case recorded a conversation between the president of ICNF, Nuno Banza, and João Galamba, then Secretary of State for the Environment and later Minister of Infrastructure.

In the conversation, Banza mentions that he could allow the data center project to go ahead, despite the fact that it is located in a Special Zone of Conservation (ZEC).

“Operation Influencer” has nine formal suspects among former Minister of Infrastructure, João Galamba, the president of the Portuguese Environment Agency, Nuno Lacasta, the president of the Chamber of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, and the administrators of the Start Campus Rui Oliveira Neves and Alfonso Salema.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that several suspects had spoken of Costa’s alleged involvement in the case for influence peddling, so an autonomous investigation was opened in the Supreme Court against the Prime Minister.

Costa submitted his resignation a few hours after learning of the investigation, but will remain in office until the president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, formalizes his resignation, dissolves parliament and calls early elections for March 10. EFE

pfm/mcd

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