TAPgate: Resignations in Portugal's government over severance pay controversy

TAPgate: Resignations in Portugal's government over severance pay controversy

Portugal's infrastructure minister has resigned amid a growing controversy over severance pay from the state-owned airline TAP.

Pedro Nuno Santos said in a statement that he took "political responsibility" for the matter and was resigning "given the public perception and the collective feeling".

The minister's secretary of state, Hugo Santos Mendes, has also left his position.

The controversy about TAP Air Portugal severance pay was first reported by the Correio da Manhã daily newspaper.

On Saturday, it was revealed that the secretary of state in the Portuguese finance ministry, Alexandra Reis, had received €500,000 in compensation when she left the airline's board of directors in February.

She was then appointed head of Portugal's state-owned air traffic control company before taking up a government position in December.

The airline is currently undergoing a €3.2 billion restructuring process that has resulted in staff cuts and salary reductions, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Civil Aviation Pilots' Union (SPAC) said Reis' compensation was "incomprehensible in a company that is experiencing a difficult economic situation".

Reis resigned on Tuesday at the request of Portugal's finance minister but has denied any wrongdoing.

Opposition parties have now called for a parliamentary hearing to examine her departure from TAP and whether she left voluntarily.

"In the future, lessons must be learned," Portugal's president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on Wednesday. "Anyone who takes up a public post is subject to a thorough examination of their past."

Nuno Santos said he had asked TAP for "explanations" about Reis' departure before presenting his resignation.

He is the second government minister to step down in nine months after the Socialist Party took office following January's elections

The former minister had been tipped as one of the successors to Portuguese prime minister and party leader Antonio Costa.