The EU committee voted to waive the immunity of two MEPs during the “Katargate” investigation | European Union
The EU committee voted to waive the immunity of two MEPs in the course of the “Katargate” investigation | European Union
A European Parliament committee has voted to waive the immunity of two MEPs on the request of Belgian authorities investigating a bribery and corruption scandal in Qatar that has rocked the EU meeting.
Members of the European Parliament within the Committee on Authorized Affairs of the European Parliament voted unanimously and immediately on Tuesday to take away the immunity of the Belgian Marco Tarabella and the Italian Andrea Cozzolino.
The European Parliament is broadly anticipated to help the committee’s opinion in a vote on Thursday, which might formally set off the tip of prison immunity for the 2 MEPs.
The request for waiver of immunity got here from Belgian authorities, who’ve charged 4 people with bribery, cash laundering and membership of a prison group in reference to the alleged funds from Qatar. The 4 – former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, serving Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her Italian deputy deputy Francesco Giorgi and the pinnacle of a Brussels NGO, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca – have been held in pre-trial detention.
Panzeri and Kaili, like Tarabella and Cozzolino, have been members of the Socialists and Democrats group within the European Parliament. Three serving MEPs have been expelled from the bloc.
Kaili misplaced her immunity robotically as a result of prosecutors believed she did caught her in the act. Below Belgian regulation, MEPs should not immune from prosecution if they’re allegedly caught red-handed.
Police seized about €150,000 (£130,000) within the Brussels flat she shared along with her suspect Giorgi. On the identical day, Kaili’s father was stopped attempting to go away a Brussels lodge with €750,000 hidden in his baggage, though he was later launched with out cost.
Earlier this month Panzeri signed a plea agreement with prosecutors he agreed to offer proof in alternate for a decreased jail sentence. Based on leaks from the investigation to the Belgian press, Panzeri mentioned he gave Tarabello €120,000.
Kaili, Tarabella and Cozzolino have denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Giorgi’s lawyer declined to remark, whereas Figà-Talamanca’s household strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing on his behalf.
Police searched Tarabello’s Brussels dwelling final month, however he was by no means charged.
In a leaked letter to the committee, Tarabella mentioned he welcomed waiving his immunity “whereas absolutely conscious of the doable penalties” to defend his identify. Stating that he had by no means acquired cash or items in alternate for his political beliefs, he wrote: “I’m judged by public opinion or by a few of my colleagues primarily based on articles within the press or self-serving confessions of imprisoned individuals who have apparently modified over time to contradict my place.”
Via his lawyer, Cozzolino has mentioned he’s “completely harmless”, describing the request to waive his immunity as primarily based on an “investigative speculation”.
Cozzolino appeared earlier than the Authorized Affairs Committee earlier this month to defend himself, however Tarabella waived his proper.
Manon Aubry, the French far-left member of the European Parliament who was accountable for getting ready the formal proposals to raise their immunity, advised Belgium’s francophone public broadcaster RTBF that she hoped the lifting of immunity would make clear the scandal “as a result of so far we solely have the tip of the iceberg”. .She mentioned, “There are items of the puzzle lacking, and I am hoping this increase in immunity will assist present extra items of the puzzle.”
Qatar has additionally denied all allegations of wrongdoing.