Benfica free tickets affair – PM backs his Finance Minister without reservation
The Prime Minister, António Costa, said this afternoon that he maintains and will continue to maintain all confidence in his Minister of Finance, Mário Centeno, even if he does end up being accused in the Benfica football tickets affair.
“I have every confidence in the minister of finance and in no circumstance will he leave the Government,” said the prime minister – a phrase that usually is the kiss of death to politicians in trouble.
The PM was reacting to the news, following the Public Prosecutor’s investigation at the Ministry of Finance last Friday into whether Centeno had compromised his position by asking for and receiving free Benfica tickets, that the finance minister could be made a defendant and could resign from office.
This afternoon, the prime minister made a point of saying that “nobody is above the law”, but then supported Centeno by adding, “The person who decides the composition of the Government is me and I maintain all confidence,” in Mário Centeno.
“Professor Mário Centeno is a person of enormous dignity and seriousness who has rendered services of great relevance to the country and in whom I have all confidence and that in no circumstance will he leave the Government,” added António Costa, noting the minister’s undoubtedly powerful place at his right hand.
The investigation is seeking to determine whether Mário Centeno’s free tickets for a Benfica game can be linked to the Benfica owner’s son receiving an exemption from property rates, (IMI).
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed it had collected documents from the Ministry of Finance last Friday and is proceeding with an investigation that does not (yet) have any defendants and is subject to the generally ignored rules of ‘secrecy of justice.’
Other State employees who resigned from office, this time in the Galpgate, ‘free tickets to football matches’ affair, “did so at their own request,” said the PM, in order to “enjoy sufficient freedom to exercise their rights.”
“It is essential to continue to govern well, to deliver results that we have committed to, which have allowed for the greatest economic growth since the beginning of the century, the lowest deficit since the beginning of democracy, a very sustained reduction of unemployment and private investment and confidence and the economic climate,” said the premier, stressing the “essential contribution” of his finance minister.
The Benfica owner also could so with some help over an investigation into a real estate company he owns in Benagil, Lagoa.