‘Qatargate’: Prime Suspect Pier Antonio Panzeri Pledges To Cooperate With Justice

‘Qatargate’: Prime Suspect Pier Antonio Panzeri Pledges To Cooperate With Justice

Published on: 01/17/2023 – 19:36

Former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri on Tuesday signed an agreement with Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office, according to which he will now cooperate in the investigation into allegations of corruption in the European Parliament in exchange for a “limited” prison sentence.

“Through this memorandum”, the prosecutor specified in a press release, “Pier Antonio Panzeri undertakes to inform the investigators and the judiciary, in particular about the modus operandi (of the alleged fraud), the financial agreements with third countries, the financial structures put in place and the beneficiaries of the structures created and the benefits offered”. His statements regarding his involvement in the alleged facts and the third party must be “substantive, insightful, honest and complete,” the text adds.

► Also read: ‘Qatargate’: European Parliament pledges to fight foreign interference

In addition, currently detained Pier Antonio Panzeri must also inform investigators of “the involvement of known or not yet known persons in the file, including the identities of persons whom he admits to having corrupted”.

I think the priority in this case is justice. Since we are in criminal proceedings, it is not a question of a regulation that has been little disregarded by parliament.

French LR-PPE MEP Arnaud Danjean welcomes the speeding up of the legal aspect of the scandal

In return for this cooperation, which is provided for in Belgium by a 2018 law on the status of the “repentant”, “the penalty imposed by Mr. Panzeri will be effective but limited. It will include imprisonment, a fine and confiscation of all acquired assets, currently worth one million euros. “The sentence is five years imprisonment, but pardon for the portion exceeding one year. He will spend a year in detention, part of it under an electronic bracelet,” said the former Italian MEP’s lawyer.

Large amounts of cash

Pier Antonio Panzeri, 67, was arrested in Brussels on December 9, the day of the arrest of a European Parliament vice-president, Greek socialist-elect Eva Kaili, and an Italian parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi, who was Ms Kaili’s companion. Along with Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, an Italian NGO official who is also behind bars, all were charged with “affiliation to a criminal organization”, “money laundering” and “corruption”.

They are suspected of raising large sums of money from Qatar to influence policy statements and decisions within the EU’s only elected body, particularly on workers’ rights, in favor of the emirate. In this investigation, entrusted to the Brussels investigating magistrate Michel Claise in the summer of 2022, a search of Mr Panzeri’s Brussels home made it possible to discover the sum of 600,000 euros in cash, according to a judicial source. According to press reports, he also received funds from Morocco to support his interests in the European Parliament. Both Qatar and Morocco have firmly denied these allegations.

Conversion “from the basement to the attic”

In the corridors of the Hemicycle, our special correspondent in Strasbourg writes: Juliette Gheerbrantthere are those who refuse to comment on the Panzeri case because justice is pending, like the leader of the Socialist Group, or who put off their answer to the next day and look tired, like the head of the Italian delegation .

There are also those who expect the tsunami to swell and sweep away an institution they don’t believe in, even if elected to it, like Bernhard Zimniok, a German MP for the far-right group Identity and Democracy (ID): ” Eventually, the whole system will collapse. We demand a moral world, and inside we have no morals. I have no faith in this institution.” At the other end of the plenary chamber, for Manon Aubry of the left, the scandal is more of an opportunity for a fresh start: “If we don’t act to rebuild the troubled institutions from basement to attic, while we are in the deepest corruption scandal in the Living through the history of the European Parliament, I don’t really see when we’re going to do that. »

The more Antonio Panzeri speaks, the better it gets, French MP Raphaël Glucksmann believes: “You have to know who has corrupted, in which countries who exactly are the actors, and then you have to know – in parliament – ​​how far this network is gone. If we think we can sweep the dust under the rug, we haven’t understood anything in the moment we’re living in. We are living in a moment that must define a new attitude of the Socialist Group and of Parliament.” “A Parliament, continues the elected official, which must show autocratic regimes that European democracy cannot be bought”.

MEPs empower the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to submit requests for the waiver of parliamentary immunity

The European Parliament on Tuesday allowed the new European prosecutor targeting Greek Eva Kaili, who is already at the center of the alleged corruption scandal with Qatar, to seek the lifting of MPs’ immunity. Almost unanimously (610 votes in favour, 26 against and 9 abstentions), MEPs gathered in Strasbourg approved an amendment to the institution’s Rules of Procedure, allowing the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to submit requests for the waiver of parliamentary immunity. Previously, this was only possible for the authorities of an EU member state.

In mid-December, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, an independent body operating since 2021, called for the waiver of the parliamentary immunity of Eva Kaili, who is currently detained as part of the investigation, and that of another Greek MEP, Maria Spyraki. This request does not refer to “Qatargate”, but to “suspicion of fraud” in the remuneration of parliamentary assistants. The amendment to the Rules of Procedure comes into force on Wednesday, and the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, should officially announce the opening of the procedure to waive Eva Kaili and Maria Spyraki’s immunity.

(With AFP)