Qatargate: why MEPs Cozzolino and Tarabella are at the center of the investigation

An investigation into alleged corruption involving Qatar is expanding. On Monday, January 2, the European Parliament announced that it had launched an “emergency procedure” to lift, at the request of the Belgian judiciary, the immunity of two MEPs in the context of this investigation.

According to sources familiar with the matter, these are two elected officials, Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marca Tarabella, both belonging to the S&D (Social Democrats) group. Both are being prosecuted as part of an investigation that led Belgian investigators to arrest the institution’s vice president, Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili, on December 9, 2022.

“In response to a request from the Belgian judiciary, I initiated an urgent procedure to lift the immunity of two members of parliament. There will be no impunity, absolutely none,” the chairman of parliament said on Twitter on Monday. Metsola.

“Officers will find this parliament on the side of the law. Corruption cannot be profitable, and we will do everything to fight it,” she also said.

Four people are accused

Eva Kylie did not exercise her parliamentary immunity as the crime was committed at the crime scene when “ticket bags” were found in her apartment. She was stripped of the title of Vice-President of the European Parliament on 13 December 2022 by an almost unanimous vote of MEPs.

Eva Caili’s companion, Italian Francesco Giorgi, who is also Andrea Cozzolino’s parliamentary aide, former Italian Socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, and NGO manager Niccolò Figa-Talamanca were also among those arrested in connection with the investigation. The four individuals were charged with “belonging to a criminal organization”, “money laundering” and “corruption” in a scandal that sent shock waves in the European Parliament and tensions between Qatar and the EU.

Roberta Metsola will formally inform MEPs about the urgent procedure for stripping Mark Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino of their immunity during their next plenary meeting on 16 January in Strasbourg. The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) will then have to study it behind closed doors and make a proposal for a decision that will eventually be accepted by all MEPs in plenary session. The President of Parliament “asked all services and committees to give priority to this procedure with a view to completing it on February 13, 2023,” the press release states.

As of December 13, the Belgian Socialist Party has decided to remove Marc Tarabella from membership. And on December 16, the Italian Democratic Party announced that it would “preemptively” remove Andrea Cozzolino from its membership register “until the ongoing Cathargate investigation is closed” in order to “protect the party’s image.” .

Investigators who got their hands on 1.5 million euros

“From the very beginning of this case, Mark Tarabella repeated that he was at the disposal of justice, and even asked that he be heard as soon as possible in order to be able to defend himself,” his lawyer, Maxim Teller, responded on Monday in a statement. sent to AFP. “He also said that he would not hide behind his parliamentary immunity, he had nothing to reproach himself with. Therefore, he supports his refusal of immunity if asked about it,” he added.

In Belgium, the investigation resulted in twenty searches between 9 and 12 December, including at the European Parliament. In this regard, on December 10, a search was carried out in the house of Mark Tarabella, a court source said.

In total, Belgian investigators received 1.5 million euros in cash, seized from the homes of Pierre-Antonio Panzeri and Eva Kylie, as well as from a suitcase carried by his father, according to a court source.

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