Judge orders release of five detainees in Portugal corruption probe


By Catarina Demony

LISBON (Reuters) -A Lisbon judge ordered on Monday that all five people detained last week for alleged corruption and influence-peddling, including the outgoing Portuguese prime minister’s former chief of staff, be released from custody.

They remain suspects in an investigation into alleged illegalities in the government’s handling of lithium and hydrogen projects, as well as a large-scale data centre.

The inquiry led to the resignation last week of Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is the target of a related investigation. A snap election has been called for March 10.

Prosecutors had asked for the continued detention of the former chief of staff, Vitor Escaria, and Diogo Lacerda Machado, a business consultant and a friend of Costa’s.

Lacerda Machado was released on a 150,000-euro ($160,305) bail, while no bail was demanded for Escaria, who will be barred from travelling abroad, the court said.

Others were named formal suspects in the investigation but were not detained, including Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba, and head the environment agency APA, Nuno Lacasta.

The government remains in full functions for the time being, at least until parliament has had its final vote on the 2024 budget on Nov. 29, but Galamba offered his resignation on Monday. He cited the need to protect his family’s “peace of mind” and said it did not constitute an assumption of guilt.

“I presented the resignation despite my understanding that the political conditions for me to perform my functions have not been exhausted,” he said in a statement, vowing to collaborate with the judicial process.

($1 = 0.9357 euros)

(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Aislinn Laing and Christina Fincher)

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