European Parliament President Roberta Metsola during a visit to Bucharest, Romania, December 19, 2022. ANDREEA ALEXANDRU / AP
New twist in the so-called “Qatargate” affair. The European Parliament announced on Monday January 2nd that it had launched an urgent procedure to waive the immunity of two MEPs, at the request of the Belgian judicial authorities and as part of an investigation into corruption within the institution involving Qatar.
According to the Belgian media Knack and Le Soir and the Agence France-Presse, based on known sources, the two MPs concerned are Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella, both from the S&D group (Social Democrats ) belong with the thing.
“Corruption does not pay and we will do everything we can to fight it,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in a statement, assuring that the institution “did everything in its power to address the ongoing Investigations” since the “beginning” of the case. “We will continue to ensure that there is no impunity. Officials will find this Parliament on the side of the law,” Ms Metsola added.
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Four people charged
In December, Belgian media outlets Knack and Le Soir announced that Belgian prosecutors are investigating a possible corruption case in the European Parliament, in which Qatar and Morocco are said to have approached MEPs to influence the institution’s economic and political decisions.
Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella are both targeted in 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 the latter’s companion, Italian Francesco Giorgi, who is also Mr 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 has caused shock waves and tensions in the European Parliament between Qatar and the European Union. Ms Kaili did not benefit from her parliamentary immunity as the offense had been declared flagranti, with “sacks of tickets” discovered at her home. 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 total, according to a court source, Belgian investigators stole €1.5 million in cash confiscated from Mr Panzeri and Ms Kaili’s homes, as well as a suitcase carried by that man’s father.
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Roberta Metsola will officially submit the request for the immunity waiver to MEPs during their next plenary session on 16 January in Strasbourg. The parliamentary legal committee then has to examine it behind closed doors and make a proposal for a decision, which all MPs then vote on in plenary.
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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. She also presents “reform proposals” to be presented “in the coming weeks” for “a review of the current rules and the improvement of internal systems, particularly with regard to control”.