Portugese official resigns over fires graft allegation
Portugal’s secretary of state for environmental protection resigned Wednesday over allegations of fraud regarding the acquisition of fire risk prevention equipment.
A government statement said Jose Artur Neves of the ruling Socialists stepped down “for personal reasons” after being fingered by an investigation into corruption and misuse of public funds.
He was found to have placed an order with a company close to his party, at well above market prices, for thousands of emergency kits for residents of areas at risk from Portugal’s summer wildfires.
The kits had already been the subject of controversy when journalists showed they are not fire resistant.
Summer forest fires annually ravage parts of Portugal and the country was shocked in June 2017 when a series of blazes spread and left dozens dead in their path.
The government said it had accepted Neves’ resignation on the back of an investigation into the acquisition of the kits which were partly financed by the country’s EU partners.
“Justice is functioning, the government is calm,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa, whose party is favoured to win in October 6 general elections.