Portugal prosecutor general to look into allegations against PM

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 25, 2014 10:53 AM

By Axel Bugge

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's prosecutor general said on Thursday it would look into allegations that Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho received undeclared payments while he was a member of parliament in the 1990s.

The prime minister himself asked the prosecutor's office earlier this week to clarify the allegations, which surfaced in local newspapers.

The reports focus on the fact that as a member of parliament, Passos Coelho was included in the so-called 'exclusivity regime', meaning he could not accept other forms of income.

"We confirm receipt (of the request)," a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general said. "The request will be analyzed within the legal competencies of the prosecutor general."

Center-right Social Democrat leader Passos Coelho has governed Portugal since 2011, navigating harsh austerity measures introduced under the country's 78-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and IMF. Lisbon exited the bailout in May.

He has nurtured a clean political image, including choosing at the start of his premiership to live in his own apartment rather than the official residence that comes with the post.

Cabinet Minister Luis Marques Guedes told journalists on Thursday the government would not comment on the matter and that it was not discussed in Thursday's weekly government meeting.

Passos Coelho told reporters on Tuesday the prosecutor general should "clarify" whether there had been any legal wrongdoing and that he was ready to "face the consequences" if found at fault.

Privately-owned daily Publico reported on Thursday that there are suspicions that Passos Coelho received 150,000 euros ($190,000) between 1997 and 1999 from a company called Tecnoforma to head a non-governmental organization called the Portuguese Center for Cooperation.

Antonio Barroso, senior vice president at the Teneo Intelligence consultancy in London, said Passos Coelho's quick request for involvement by the prosecutor general "suggests the premier is probably confident about the outcome of the inquest."

"Therefore, the potential for a political crisis that could lead to the fall of the prime minister remains limited at this stage," Barroso said in a research note.

The allegations come in the same week that the opposition center-left Socialists are due to hold a primary to decide who will lead the party in a general election nine months away.

The primary takes place on Sunday between the current Socialist party leader Antonio Jose Seguro and Lisbon's popular mayor Antonio Costa.

(Additional reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)