Both deputies deny their guilt.
The European Parliament on Thursday lifted the immunity of lawmakers Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabello, opening up the possibility for Belgian prosecutors to question them about their involvement in the Cathargate corruption scandal that rocked Brussels last December. POLITICO writes about it.
This is another episode in the scandal over accusations that Qatar and Morocco could illegally influence the work of parliament.
The motive for removing Cozzolino and Tarabello’s parliamentary immunity was that they are suspected of serious crimes, including corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization.
Tarabello, the Belgian MEP, and the Italian Cozzolino strongly deny any wrongdoing. Both legislators are members of the Socialist and Democrat group.
Tarabello attended the meeting in Brussels and voted to waive his immunity.
“I repeat that I am innocent of what I am accused of, so now it is up to the judiciary to interrogate me,” he told reporters after the vote, adding that he was glad that immunity was lifted.
Cozzolino commented on the situation from Italy.
“I’m not worried at all, I’m ready to testify at any time,” he said.
EU legislators enjoy immunity from prosecution while serving in Parliament. The process of removing this protection takes several weeks and includes numerous steps.
A spokesman for the Belgian prosecutor’s office told POLITICO that local authorities can now treat both legislators like any other Belgian.
After Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP at the center of the scandal and arrested, entered into a plea deal with Belgian federal prosecutors and promised to name others involved, there has been speculation and speculation around Brussels as to who the police might arrest next.
According to information available to the European Parliament, Cozzolino is accused of receiving money to block resolutions that harm the interests of countries outside the EU. The legislator led a parliamentary delegation with the Maghreb countries, including Morocco, and was the main member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Group on Human Rights Resolutions.
Tarabello is suspected of taking up to 140,000 euros in bribes from Panzeri for making certain decisions in favor of non-EU governments. Before stepping down earlier this month, he served as Vice President of the GCC Parliamentary Delegation.
These accusations are similar to those raised by others involved in Cathargate.
Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who has been in prison for almost two months on corruption charges, has already been stripped of her position as vice president of parliament and expelled from the S&D group.
Kylie’s partner and Panzeri parliamentary aide Francesco Giorgi has been detained on the same charges as Niccolò Figa-Talamanca, head of the human rights NGO.
Cozzolino and Tarabella were also excluded from the S&D party for the duration of the criminal investigation.
A parliamentary spokesman said that so far there have been no other requests from the Belgian authorities to lift the immunity of MEPs amid further investigations under the Katargate.
At the end of December, less than a month after his appointment, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Luca Visentini, resigned. He confessed to receiving several tens of thousands of euros in cash from Pier Antonio Panzeri.