Another development in Qatargate: two MPs are likely to lose their parliamentary immunity soon. Both the Belgian judicial authorities and the European Parliament want to turn the bottom stone in this scandal.
Pockets full of money and expensive gifts in exchange for influence in the European Parliament. That, in short, is Qatargate, the corruption scandal that unfolded in December.
In a new chapter of this saga, the European Parliament is now looking at whether the parliamentary immunity of two members can be lifted. Belgium’S Marc Tarabella and Italy’s Andrea Cozzolino are believed to have received bribes. Previously, the gentlemen were already suspended.
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola is speeding up the procedure. Parliamentarians cannot be prosecuted for a crime until their immunity has been waived, as they enjoy diplomatic immunity as long as they are in office. “Corruption must not pay and we will do everything we can to fight corruption,” Metsola said in a statement.
Qatargate came to light in december. Belgian authorities then raided several MEPs in an investigation into bribes by Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence at the highest level of the EU.
The political scandal involves politicians, political associates, lobbyists, officials and their families. It is not an easy cost: they are suspected of corruption, money laundering and organized crime.
Belgium is leading the investigation into the corruption scandal. The Belgian State Security launched the intelligence investigation in 2021. In the process, the House of the Italian Pier Antonio Panzeri, an important link in Qatargate, was examined. This led to a judicial investigation.
“This research can become for the fight against corruption what the ECC is for the fight against drugs,” said Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld) in a previous interview with this newspaper. According to the minister of justice, there are currently no indications that Belgian MPs have been tried to bribe.
Morocco also plays a role in the scandal, with possible corruption by its intelligence agency DGED and the Moroccan ambassador to Poland. It seems that former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri has been influenced and paid for by Morocco for years. The police found tons of cash in his Brussels and Italian home. It is also suspected that he was in contact with the Moroccan spy ‘M118’. This spy is said to be the link between Panzeri and the Moroccan Secret Service.
But the Italian is not the first name to be publicly linked to the corruption scandal. That was the Greek MEP Eva Kaili. She is part of the group of the European Socialists and Democrats, as are Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino.
Kaili has been arrested and removed from her post and is awaiting trial in Belgium. She denies any form of corruption on her part, her lawyer says. Her partner Francesco Giorgi has confessed to being involved in corruption and interference by Qatar and Morocco. He is an advisor for the Middle East and North Africa in the European Parliament-and works for the ngo Fight Impunity.
Fight Impunity was founded in 2019 by – Yes-Pier Antonio Panzeri to promote human rights and bring violators to justice. Presumably, Panzeri used the ngo as a cover for bribing and influencing the European Parliament. Panzeri is – a bit ironically-also the former chairman of the subcommittee on human rights of the European Parliament.
Qatargate is seen as one of the worst corruption scandals in Brussels. Qatar wanted to buy off influence in the European Parliament on a political and economic level. For example, the country wants to make agreements with EU countries on natural gas. Another goal is to achieve visa-free travel for Qataris to the 27 European Schengen countries.
In exchange for a positive sound, that was the method. Eva Kaili defended Qatar at various times in 2022. She called the country a” frontrunner in the field of labor rights”, at a time when there was a lot of attention worldwide to the working conditions of workers in the country.
In november, Kaili spoke in plenary about the” historic transformation ” Qatar had undergone as a result of the World Cup. It was at the meeting that a resolution was adopted deploring the death of thousands of migrant workers. She also voted for visa liberalisation for Qatar and Kuwait in a European Parliament committee she was not even a member of.
’ Guardian of human rights ‘ Pier Antonio Panzeri then interfered in decisions of the European Parliament that are relevant to Morocco. It would also be Panzeri who instructed assistants of European parliamentarians, in order to protect Qatar.
The European Parliament wants to turn the bottom stone in the investigation. Repetition should also be avoided in the future. President Metsola will outline her plans for reform in the coming weeks, she said in a statement. The current rules are being revised, and there will be an improvement in the internal systems – also when it comes to enforcement.