The two MPs concerned are Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella from the S&D Group (Social Democrats).
The European Parliament announced on Monday January 2nd that, at the request of the Belgian judicial authorities, it had opened emergency proceedings to lift the immunity of two MPs in relation to an investigation into corruption within the institution involving Qatar.
The two MPs involved are Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella, both from the S&D (Social Democrats) group, sources familiar with the matter have told AFP. Both are targeted as part of the investigation that led to Belgian investigators arresting the institution’s vice-president, Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili, on December 9.
Among those arrested were his companion, Italian Francesco Giorgi, who is also Andrea Cozzolino’s parliamentary assistant, former Italian socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, and an NGO official, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca. These four figures have been charged with “affiliation with a criminal organization”, “money laundering” and “corruption” in a scandal that sent shockwaves and tensions between Qatar and the EU in the European Parliament.
Eva Kaili did not enjoy her parliamentary immunity because the crime was uncovered in flagrante delicto and “sacks of tickets” were discovered in her apartment. She was stripped of her title as Vice-President of the European Parliament on December 13 by an almost unanimous vote by MEPs. In Belgium, investigations between December 9th and 12th led to twenty searches, including in the European Parliament. According to a court source, Marc Tarabella’s apartment was searched on December 10 in this connection.
In all, according to a court source, Belgian investigators stole €1.5 million in cash, confiscated from the homes of Mr. Panzeri and Eva Kaili, as well as in a suitcase carried by that man’s father. “At the request of the Belgian judicial authorities, I have initiated an urgent procedure to lift the immunity of two MEPs. There will be no impunity, absolutely none,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Twitter on Monday. “Officials will find this Parliament on the side of the law. Corruption does not pay off and we will do everything we can to fight it,” she also said.
Roberta Metsola will formally convey this request to MEPs during their next plenary session on January 16th in Strasbourg. The parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) then has to examine it behind closed doors and make a proposal for a decision, which all MPs then vote on in plenary. The Speaker of Parliament “has asked all services and committees to prioritize this process with a view to its conclusion on February 13,” the press release said.
On December 13, the Belgian Socialist Party decided to suspend Marc Tarabella from his membership. And on December 16, the Democratic Party of Italy announced that it would remove Andrea Cozzolino from its membership list “as a precautionary measure, pending the completion of the ongoing investigation into the +Qatargate+ scandal” in order to “restore the party’s image.
SEE ALSO – Qatargate: Eva Kaili’s lawyers are demanding placement under an electronic bracelet