He Qatargate further extends its stain through the European Parliament. The judge in charge of the investigation of the alleged bribery scandal in favor of countries such as Qatar or Morocco in the Eurochamber has decreed preventive detention this Saturday for the Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, whom he has accused of corruption, money laundering and belonging to an organization criminal, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office to EL PAÍS. Another European parliamentarian, the Italian Andrea Cozzolino, has been arrested since Friday in Italy under an international arrest warrant issued by Brussels for the same corruption case that has shaken the European institutions.
With Tarabella, there are now four accused of the Qatargate who remain in pretrial detention. Since the scandal broke out two months ago, Eva Kaili, also an MEP and already former parliamentary vice president, her partner and parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi and the Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri have also been detained. A fourth defendant, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, director of an NGO linked to Panzeri, has been released, but he will also have to answer to justice for corruption and money laundering.
The Italian Andrea Cozzolino could soon join the list. The Belgian judicial police had come to his Brussels home on Friday to, as they did with Tarabella, take him into custody for questioning, but the Socialist MEP was in Italy, in a hospital in Naples to be treated for a condition. Despite this, the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office confirmed this Saturday that the parliamentarian, who, like Tarabella, has publicly denied his participation in the bribery scheme led by his friend Panzeri, was arrested the day before after an arrest warrant was issued. international. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, his more or less immediate appearance before the Belgian courts now depends on whether Cozzolino agrees to be deported to testify in Brussels or not, which could delay the entire process, although the politician has always assured that he was willing to talk. before the judicial authorities.
The possibility of both being arrested was expected since the European Parliament voted in favor of lifting their immunity on February 2, in an express process carried out at the request of the Belgian justice, which has had both in its sights since that the scandal broke out on December 9. In fact, the police had already searched Tarabella’s home two months ago, as part of the wave of searches in which the Belgian authorities ended up seizing up to 1.5 million euros in cash hidden in suitcases and bags found in the addresses of Kaili and Panzeri. In the case of Tarabella, the agents only took computer equipment.
This Friday, the police again searched the Belgian MEP’s premises, this time several offices of the Anthisnes mayor’s office, the town about 120 kilometers from Brussels of which he is mayor, as well as a safe in his name in a bank of liege In addition, he sealed his office at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels, like Cozzolino’s.
It has not been revealed whether evidence of Tarabella’s involvement in the plot has been found in the new operation, as the ringleader of the Qatargate, Pier Antonio Panzeri. The former Italian MEP signed an agreement with the Belgian courts in mid-January to reveal the entire bribery plot in exchange for a reduction in his sentence. After the pact, his wife and his daughter, detained in Italy and pending extradition, were also released. As reported in the Belgian press, Panzeri has assured that he paid Tarabella up to 140,000 euros for making policies and speeches favorable to Qatar in the European Parliament ahead of the World Cup that was held in that Gulf country at the end of last year. The Belgian has publicly denied those accusations.
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In the case of Cozzolino, the Belgian justice system suspects the Italian for his friendship with Panzeri and for having employed Francesco Giorgi as a parliamentary assistant, who had also worked with the former MEP and who has also acknowledged being fully involved in the bribery scheme. Furthermore, until the outbreak of the Qatargate, Cozzolino chaired the European Parliament delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries. In addition to Qatar, the Belgian justice wants to find out to what extent Morocco is involved in the corruption scheme of the high European representatives.
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