CEO of Resilient Group distances from government scandal
The Dutch CEO of the Resilient Group, Marc Rechter, who in 2019 presented Portugal’s green hydrogen project to the António Costa PS government, has distanced himself from the current corruption scandal engulfing Portugal.
In a statement to the business daily Negócios, Marc Rechter says that while he is certain that there are “lots of things to discover in Portugal”, they won’t involve him. “I’m very busy with energy projects outside Portugal”.
Marc Rechter held his first meeting with João Galamba, currently a legal defendant in a corruption case involving green hydrogen projects in Sines, south of Lisbon, on July 2, 2019, before the pandemic and wars in the Middle East and Ukraine.
The Resilient Group, headquartered in the Netherlands, has projects under development across Europe, including the Iberian peninsula. The company specialises in designing and developing integrated solutions across the green hydrogen value chain.
Founded as a spin-off from Resilient Group’s activities dating back to 2017, Resilient Hydrogen is a Green Hydrogen development company that uses its expertise in technology, engineering, finance and regulatory fields to design safe, reliable and economically viable green hydrogen solutions for clients in the industry and mobility sectors, facilitating and accelerating their decarbonisation journey.
Last week João Galamba was made a legal suspect of having been involved in passive corruption in both the lithium and hydrogen cases, with the Public Ministry investigating his actions regarding the H2 consortium.
According to Lusa, former environment minister, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, is also suspected of passive corruption and prevarication in the lithium and hydrogen cases, with the public prosecutor’s office (MP) pointing suspicions at his actions in relation to the H2 Sines consortium.
Matos Fernandes, who has not been charged, is alleged to have imposed on the Resilient Group the integration of the companies REN, EDP and Galp into its green hydrogen project called Green Flamingo in 2020 – together with the minister for infrastructures who was then secretary of state for energy, João Galamba.
In July 2019, João Galamba dismissed the Resilient Group on the grounds that it would not be compatible with the H2 Sines consortium comprising the national grid operator REN and energy providers EDP and Galp.
These companies were later joined by the Portuguese construction company Martifer and the Danish eolic energy company Vestas and the public prosecutor considers it indicative that Matos Fernandes collaborated, after leaving the government, with Copenhagen Infrastructures Partner, in which Vestas had invested.
According to Lusa “prosecutors also pointed out that the ex-minister was also hired in the meantime as a consultant by Abreu Advogados, a firm that provides legal advice to Copenhagen, and that he had contacts – considered suspicious – with Martifer’s chairman, Carlos Martins.
“Matos Fernandes’ name is also associated with suspicions regarding the concession of the lithium mine in Barroso, in the municipality of Boticas, to the company Savannah.
According to the prosecutors, the former minister — in concerted action with João Galamba and Rui Oliveira Neves, then director of GALP (and one of the five detainees in this investigation) — unduly imposed the oil company’s entry into the Savannah Lithium stake.
“Matos Fernandes’ activity is also being investigated in relation to the approval of legislation on waste management, since Abreu Advogados advises companies in this sector and the Association of Non-Hazardous Waste Management Companies (APERA), which was a sector under his supervision.
The public prosecutor also believes that the former minister undermined the measures to counter Portugal’s drought to garner a better result for the Socialist Party in the 2022 legislative elections.
“Matos Fernandes had been alerted to the worsening drought on January 17, and only convened the Permanent Drought Commission — with a view to halting energy production at five dams and stopping the use of water for irrigation at the Bravura reservoir — on February 1, two days after the elections.
In addition to these matters, the indictment also points out that the former minister “imposed” the names of architects Inês Lobo and Alexandre Alves Costa on the jury for the tender to build the new Porto metro bridge over the River Douro, as if they had been chosen by the Order of Architects. However, the prosecutors said they still don’t know the motivation for this action or its results.
The lawyers for the five men in custody say there is a lack of evidence. For example, the lawyer representing Diogo Lacerda Machado – the former prime minister’s great friend, and alleged ‘grand facilitator’ of sundry deals — is one who believes there is insufficient evidence. The Prime Minister said later in the televised address to the nation on Saturday evening that: “a prime minister does not have friends”.
Leaving the Central Criminal Court of Investigation in Lisbon, his defence lawyer Manuel Magalhães e Silva said that what he had found was “the criminalisation of a political-administrative process”, without “unequivocal evidence of any corruption”.
The lawyer added that there was “effectively nothing irregular” in the various phone wiretaps involved, albeit there is the one that gave rise to the autonomous investigation that is taking place in the Supreme Court of Justice (focusing on the former prime minister), on which he “did not wish to comment”, says Lusa.
All in all, Magalhães e Silva seems to believe that his client was indeed a “link between investors and the government”, but more in the sense of being ‘useful’ and focused on the “higher interests of the country”.
In the case of the data centre in Sines, for example, this was an investment of €3.5Bn and which could reach €27 billion. All told the investment will be the largest in Portugal since Volkswagen Autoeuropa in the 1990s.
“Therefore, what we were dealing with was a project of the highest interest for Portugal, with the representativeness that this entails and in which the link was made between private investors and the various government authorities, public institutes and other entities that could intervene,” said the lawyer,
“If Lacerda Machado had been notified to be arraigned and to make a statement, he would have done so that same day or the next, there was no need for the show-off of detention,” he told reporters.
Equally, Tiago Rodrigues Bastos, the lawyer for Vítor Escária (the prime minister’s chief of staff) has said that there is “no justification” for detaining his client after €75,000 was found by police stashed in wine crates and in envelopes in his office at the Prime Minister’s official residence of São Bento in Lisbon.
According to Lusa, the money found in Vítor Escária’s office was “a lateral fact” and “absolutely irrelevant”.
Tiago Rodrigues Bastos, the lawyer for Vítor Escária, said: “It’s up to me to defend Vítor Escária’s honour and explain that this amount has nothing to do with the subject of the case.
“The Public Prosecutor’s Office knows this perfectly well. That has never been the thesis of the case, it has never been the case that Vitor Escária received money from anyone. It’s a sum of money that was seized from Vítor Escária’s office that relates to his previous professional activity.”
However, the question of why the money was not kept in his bank account or in a safe in his own private residence has not been convincingly answered.
Lusa also reports that the political commission of the PS party met to decide its future without the man that clinched an absolute majority 21 months ago and is now no longer in the driving seat with candidates including José Luís Carneiro, ex-minister Pedro Nuno Santos, and even at one point the Governor of the Bank of Portugal, Mário Centeno.