Qatar-gate: Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella charged with corruption

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella has been arrested by the investigating judge on suspicion of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization, Belgium's Federal Prosecutor's Office confirmed on Saturday.

Tarabella came under scrutiny in the European Parliament corruption investigation dubbed Qatargate. For some time, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office has been investigating attempts by Qatar to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament by paying large sums of money or offering sizeable gifts to people in political and/or strategic positions in the European Parliament. 

Tarabella's parliamentary immunity was lifted on 2 February and he was detained for questioning on Friday. The investigating judge has now decided to place the MEP under arrest. He will appear before the Brussels council chamber on Thursday, which will decide on his further detention.

A series of searches were also carried out on Friday morning, reports the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office. "The first search was conducted at the home of a member of the European Parliament, A.C., located in Ixelles. A bank vault in Liège belonging to a second MP, M.T., was also searched, as well as some offices in the Anthisnes town hall."

According to his lawyer, Tarabella maintains that he is innocent. There are no new elements that would prove his guilt, according to the lawyer. "Statements by Mr Panzeri are the only element against him," he said. Former MEP Antonio Panzeri was arrested as part of the investigation in December 2022 and struck a deal to cooperate with the investigators.

"He keeps crying out his innocence. He says he never received money or gifts in exchange for a favour," the lawyer added. "It is the word of a criminal, Panzeri, against the word of a man who has been honest his whole life." Panzeri stated that he gave an envelope containing 140,000 euros cash to Tarabella so that it would take positions in Qatar's favour.


Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella during a plenary session of the European Parliament, 2 February 2023 © BELGA PHOTO

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