EU corruption scandal: alleged mastermind wants to cooperate

EU corruption scandal: alleged mastermind wants to cooperate

Pier Antonio Panzeri signed an agreement and remains in custody. Former European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili could soon have her immunity revoked.

In the EU corruption scandal, alleged mastermind Pier Antonio Panzeri promised comprehensive cooperation with the Belgian judiciary. As announced by the public prosecutor responsible in Brussels, the former deputy signed a corresponding agreement on Tuesday. In return, your sentence will be reduced. Italian Panzeri is considered a key figure in the scandal that Belgian investigators uncovered in December.

This is a supposed influence of Qatar and Morocco in the political decisions of the European Parliament. Panzeri is one of several suspects in custody. They are accused of involvement in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. Among those arrested is the former vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili. She must be heard again by the magistrate this Thursday.

According to prosecutors, Panzeri signed the agreement on Tuesday in the presence of his lawyer. The official spoke on one of the “key figures” in the case. Panzeri has committed to providing investigators with comprehensive information about criminal structures. This reportedly includes the names of bribes, promised benefits and financial arrangements with other countries. In return, he only has to spend a short time in jail and pay a fine. In addition, all assets acquired from him, currently valued at one million euros, will be confiscated.

Public prosecutors had previously announced on Tuesday that Panzeri had withdrawn his appeal against the pre-trial detention imposed in December. Panzeri represented the Social Democrats in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019. More recently, he headed the non-governmental organization Fight Impunity, which is also the focus of Belgian investigators.

EU parliament votes on Kaili’s immunity

The European Parliament may soon lift Kaili’s immunity. On Tuesday, MEPs voted by a large majority to change their own rules of procedure so that not only national authorities but also the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) can request such a measure.

The former vice president must be heard again by the magistrate on Thursday. The suspects are indicted for involvement in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. Belgian authorities are investigating alleged influence on political decisions in Qatar and Morocco.

The EEPO had already asked in December to lift the immunity of two deputies, including the Greek Social Democrat Kaili. Greek Christian Democrat Maria Spyraki is also under suspicion. EPPO’s request is unrelated to the corruption scandal surrounding the EU Parliament. On the contrary, it is an alleged fraud with regard to allowances for parliamentary assistants.

Parliament President Roberta Metsola wants to make the EPPO request public at this week’s plenary session, after which the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee will deal with the matter. Ultimately, the floor must vote.