Qatargate investigating judge steps down

The investigating judge in the European Parliament corruption probe known as Qatargate has decided to step down from the investigation, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office announced on Monday. 

"As a precautionary measure, and in order to allow justice to pursue its work in serenity and maintain the necessary separation between private and family life and professional responsibilities, the investigating judge Michel Claise has informed us that he has decided this evening to step down from the case," a statement from the prosecutor's office reads.

"A number of elements have recently emerged that could call into question the objective direction of the investigation," the statement reads. Politico and De Standaard write that Claise's withdrawal is related to ties between his son and the son of MEP Maria Arena. 

Arena has never been questioned or charged in the Qatargate investigation but is said to be good friends with key suspect Pier Antonio Panzeri. The sons of Arena and Claise have known each other for many years and co-own a company, Politico writes.

There are "no objective elements that could call into question the honesty of any of the persons involved or the extent of the work carried out both by them and by the investigators", the prosecutor's statement says.

The prosecutor's office says another investigating judge who has already intervened in the case several times will take over the investigation. According to Politico, the judge in question is Aurélie Dejaiffe.


Michel Claise © PHOTO BELPRESS

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