LISBON – Portugal’s Defense Minister Jose Azeredo Lopes handed in on Friday his resignation following weeks of scandal over the theft of weapons at a military arms depot.
Azeredo stepped down after being heavily criticized for his role in the 2017 theft in the small central Portuguese town of Tancos and the subsequent recovery of the weapons. Several members of the military have been arrested for allegedly covering up the incident.
“I have had no knowledge, be it direct or indirect, of a cover-up operation aimed at protecting one or two of the theft’s culprits,” Azeredo said in his resignation letter.
He also invoked the need to protect the country’s armed forces from “political attacks on the minister responsible for them.”
Azeredo had been a member of Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s cabinet since the current government was formed in 2015.
Costa repeatedly expressed confidence in the minister throughout last week.