The European Parliament begins the process of lifting the immunity of 2 lawmakers
BRUSSELS — The President of the European Parliament has launched an emergency procedure to lift the immunity of two lawmakers following a request from Belgian judicial authorities investigating a major corruption scandal that is shaking European politics.
The European Parliament said on Monday that President Roberta Metsola had asked all services and committees to prioritize the procedure, with the aim of completing it by February 13.
“From the first moment, the European Parliament did everything in its power to help with the investigations and we will continue to ensure that there is no impunity,” Metsola said. “Officials will find this Parliament on the side of the law. . Corruption cannot pay and we will do everything to fight it.
The European Parliament’s press service did not identify the two MEPs. According to two people familiar with the matter who have not been authorized to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing, they are the Italian Andrea Cozzolino and the Belgian Marc Tarabella.
Both men are members of the Socialists and Democrats group in Parliament. Tarabella, whose home was raided last month, denied any wrongdoing. Both were asked to comment.
A third lawmaker, Eva Kaili, has already been charged in connection with the scandal, which allegedly involves Qatari and Moroccan officials suspected of influencing economic and political decisions with gifts and money.
Prosecutors charge Kaili with corruption, membership in a criminal organization and money laundering. Greek Socialist MEP Kaili has been in detention since 9 December. His partner, Francesco Giorgi, adviser to the European Parliament, is imprisoned on the same charges.
Kaili was relieved of her duties as Deputy Speaker of Parliament after being charged. She would normally have been granted immunity from prosecution, but was brought before a judge after Belgian police raided premises across Brussels last month and large sums of cash were reportedly found inside. his home.
Kaili and Giorgi are suspected of working with Giorgi’s former boss, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former EU lawmaker. According to arrest warrants, Panzeri “is suspected of intervening politically with members working in the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, against payment”.
Parliament has halted work on cases involving Qatar as it investigates the impact the cash and gifts-for-influence bribery scandal may have had. Qatar vehemently denies any involvement and Morocco has yet to respond to allegations that its ambassador to Poland may have been involved.
Belgian prosecutors are also seeking the surrender of Panzeri’s wife and daughter from Italy, where they were placed under house arrest on similar charges.
A fourth suspect in Belgium – Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary general of the non-governmental organization No Peace Without Justice – has also been charged and imprisoned in connection with the case.
The scandal came to public attention after police launched more than 20 raids, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy. Hundreds of thousands of euros were found in a house and in a suitcase in a hotel in Brussels. Mobile phones, computer equipment and data were seized.