Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, has resigned amid a corruption probe involving a data center campus in Sines, a nearby hydrogen plant, and several lithium mines. Several executives from the Start Campus company have been arrested.

PM Costa resigned hours after prosecutors examining alleged corruption involving lithium and “green” hydrogen deals announced that he was under investigation.

costa portugal -- Portugese Government
– Portugese Government

Police have searched dozens of addresses, including Costa’s official residence and the environment and infrastructure ministries.

Costa stood down, but said he has a “clear conscience” and “complete trust in justice.”

"The dignity of the Prime Minister's duties is not compatible with any suspicion regarding his integrity, his good conduct and, even less, with the suspicion of the commission of any criminal act,” Costa said in a statement.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa will now decide whether to dissolve parliament and call new elections, or choose a new prime minister from Costa’s Social Party (Partido Socialista).

Start executives arrested

The Portuguese Public Prosecution Service is investigating alleged “misuse of funds, active and passive corruption by political figures, and influence peddling” involving lithium mining concessions, a hydrogen production project, and the Start data center campus in Sines.

Start confirmed to the Lusa news agency and Negócios that its facilities were searched as part of the investigation.

"The company is cooperating with the authorities, providing all necessary and requested information, to ensure a complete and impartial investigation of all necessary facts,” the company said.

Start reaffirmed its "total commitment to transparency, legality and integrity of all its operations and in all phases of the development of its investment in Portugal" and said "that it will continue its operations and investment in Portugal.”

The mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, two administrators from the Start Campus company, and a consultant were arrested. Local press are naming the Start employees as CEO Afonso Salema and chief legal & sustainability officer, Rui Oliveira Neves.

Start, owned by the Davidson Kempner company of North America, and Pioneer Point Partners of the UK is planning a 495MW campus on more than 60 hectares of land adjacent to a recently decommissioned coal power plant in the city of Sines on the Portuguese coast.

Announced in 2021, ground was broken on the project last year. The first of six buildings, offering 5,000 square meters (53,800 sq ft) and 15MW of capacity across six data halls, is due live next year. The remaining buildings are set to be built out until 2028.

The project plans initially included a total of five buildings, but this was expanded to nine - with the first set to be completed in late 2023 and the rest by 2027. The number then dropped again to six. Our Brazilian site reports that the first customers moved in last month.

Previously announced partners, customers, and suppliers for the project include EllaLink, Exa, DE-CIX, Colt, and Nautilus.

DCD has reached out to Start for more information.