Qatargate: European Parliament wants immunity Tarabella and Cozzolino lifted

The European Parliament is launching proceedings to lift the parliamentary immunity of two members following a request by Belgian judicial authorities. This reports the office of the European Parliament's president Roberta Metsola.

Although the parliament's president did not mention names, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they are Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino. Both social democrats have already been summoned in connection with Qatargate, the investigation into corruption in the European Parliament.

Metsola will announce the request for lifting immunity as soon as possible at the plenary session on 16 January, after which the request will be passed on to the parliament's legal affairs committee. That committee must then appoint a rapporteur to study the files and submit them to the committee. This rapporteur may also hear both MPs, after which the committee must present a proposal on whether or not to lift immunity to the whole parliament.

Parliament votes on the waiver by a simple majority. If approved, the president immediately transmits this decision to the MPs concerned and the competent national authorities, in this case, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office. President Metsola asked all departments concerned to prioritise the proceedings against Taraballa and Cozzolino so that they could be completed by 13 February.

"Corruption must not yield, and we will do all we can to fight it"

"From the beginning, the European Parliament has done everything in its power to cooperate with this investigation," said President Metsola. "We will continue to do so to ensure this does not go unpunished. Those responsible will find this parliament is on the side of the law. Corruption must not yield, and we will do all we can to fight it."

The requests to lift the parliamentary immunity of Tarabella and Cozzolino are part of an investigation by the Federal Prosecutor's Office into attempts by the Gulf state Qatar to influence the economic and political decision-making of the European Parliament by paying large sums of money or offering significant gifts to people in political and strategic positions within the European Parliament. Morocco is also named in the investigation, with possible corruption by its intelligence service DGED and Moroccan ambassador to Poland, Abderrahim Atmoun.

In that investigation, a string of searches was carried out on 9 December, and six people were arrested. They included former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, Brussels-Italian lobbyist Nicolo Figa-Talamanca, Eva Kaili, the former vice-president of the European Parliament, Kaili's partner Francesco Giorgi, her father and trade unionist Luca Visentini. Panzeri, Giorgi, Kaili and Figa-Talamanca were placed under arrest warrants, while Visentini and Kaili's father was released.

During the searches, detectives from the Federal Judicial Police seized 1.5 million euros. In Panzeri's home, 700,000 euros in cash were taken, while Eva Kaili's father was detained at his hotel with a suitcase full of banknotes worth some 600,000 euros. Kaili herself is said to have had around 150,000 euros in her possession.

Meanwhile, Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella has indicated that he will support the demand to lift his immunity. According to his lawyer, he does not want to hide behind his immunity.


© John THYS / AFP

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