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Deepening Scandal at TAP Air Portugal Nearly Claims Another Government Minister’s Scalp and Threatens Privatisation Talks

Deepening Scandal at TAP Air Portugal Nearly Claims Another Government Minister’s Scalp and Threatens Privatisation Talks

TAP Air Portugal Made a Loss of €119 Million in the First Six Months of This Year

A deepening scandal at Portuguese flag carrier TAP Air Portugal nearly claimed another government minister’s scalp on Tuesday after the country’s Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba offered his resignation, only for it to be rejected by Prime Minister António Costa.

In his resignation letter, Galamba said he was stepping down from his role to preserve “institutional tranquillity” over claims that the government, and his department in particular, had withheld key documents concerning a financial scandal at the airline.

Galamba’s attempted resignation came just four months after his predecessor Pedro Nuno Santos was forced to leave the government after details of apparent wrongdoing at state-owned TAP Air Portugal first started to come to light.

The scandal revolves around an irregular severance payment of €500,000 to Alexandra Reis, a former board member of the airline and government official.

In the wake of the scandal coming to light, the government sacked former chief executive Christine Ourmières-Widener and TAP Air Portugal chairman Manuel Beja in March.

Opposition lawmakers have accused Galamba of withholding crucial evidence from a parliamentary committee which is investigating the scandal but Prime Minister António Costa said on Tuesday night that he couldn’t accept Galamba’s resignation because there was no evidence that he had misled the committee.

TAP Air Portugal had to be fully renationalised in July 2020 as the pandemic battered the struggling airline’s finances. The renationalisation allowed jetBlue founder David Neeleman to part ways with TAP Air Portugal after he attempted a turn round through the Atlantic Gateway Consortium.

The Portuguese government has been courting potential buyers for TAP Air Portugal, with the Air France-KLM and Lufthansa Group the main contenders to win a controlling stake in the airline.

TAP Air Portugal reported a net profit of €65.6 million for 2022.

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