European Parliament Focuses Two MEPs in Corruption Scandal - Liberty

Saturday, October 7, 2023

European Parliament Focuses Two MEPs in Corruption Scandal


Credit...Julien Warnand/EPA, via Shutterstock.

European lawmakers began lifting the immunity of two fellows on Monday, paving the way for more arrests as an influential financing probe ripples through European Union institutions. opened.

The two were identified on Monday as Mark Talavella, a Belgian lawmaker whose home was raided by police last month, and Italian Andrea Cozzolino, one of the key suspects detained by Belgian authorities. Deputies could be questioned and detained by Belgian authorities if their immunity was lifted.

Last month, Belgian police arrested four people, including one of the parliamentary vice presidents, an aide, and a former member of parliament. They charged them with forming a criminal organization, corruption, and money laundering. Police reported finding €1.5 million ($1.6 million) in bags and suitcases at the suspect's residence and other locations.

The raid took place after a year-long investigation with the help of foreign intelligence services. Belgian officials say they have exposed Qatar and Morocco using bribes to influence parliamentary decisions. Qatar and Morocco have denied the accusations.

Assembly is the least prominent of the three Central EUs. It is an institution, but it is the only one directly elected. A scandal that rocked the solid world of the EU. Politics threatens to undermine parliament's recent efforts to become more meaningful to ordinary Europeans and more influential in the complex EU. power structure.

"The events of last month have created a need to rebuild the trust of the European citizens we represent," Parliamentary President Roberta Mezzola told lawmakers during Monday's session.

Four of the suspects charged so far are in pretrial detention in Brussels.

They were identified as Eva Kaili, one of Congress' 14 vice presidents until the case broke down. Pia Antonio Panzeri, a former member of parliament and head of a human rights charity. Francesco Giorgi, Kairi's partner and aide to parliament. Kairi and Figa Talamanca have been acquitted through their lawyers. Others have not commented.

Two more, Panzeri's wife and daughter were arrested in Italy and are awaiting extradition to Belgium. They also deny any wrongdoing.

Talavera's attorney also denied the charges against him. Talavera resigned last week from parliamentary delegations to Qatar and other Arab countries.

Attorney Maxime Toler said: "From the beginning, Mark Talavera has been willing to support justice if it is beneficial to investigators. He is therefore fully in favor of this waiver of immunity. ”

Credit...Valeria Mongelli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Giorgi's boss, Cozzolino, did not respond to a request for comment.

Parliament conducts most of its business from its offices in Brussels, the Belgian capital, where police investigate corruption cases. However, Monday's announcement was made at the parliament building in Strasbourg, France.

As lawmakers gathered for the first legislative session of the year on Monday night, anxiety about what might come next was palpable.

In the long corridors of the sleek, glass-enclosed headquarters, everyone — journalists, MPs, aides — was talking only about the scandal, or Qatargate, as it inevitably became known in the EU. Circle.

The two lawmakers' requests to waive their immunity will be considered by a committee that can question them. Final approval will be subject to a vote by all 705 MPs scheduled for February 13th.

Kairi's immunity was automatically lost on December 9th. This is because the police claimed to have caught her "red flag" when they found a bag containing €150,000 in cash in the apartment she shared with her. Hundreds of thousands of euros were found in a bag with his father in a hotel room in Brussels.

Belgian legal experts say the case will take at least two years to go to trial, and the defendants are unlikely to remain in custody. Vanessa Franssen, professor of criminal law at the University of Li├Ęge, said she hoped the judge would release the suspect with an electronic tag within the next three to six months.

Despite intense public scrutiny of the case, the most important underlying questions remain unanswered.

Credit...Julien Warnand/EPA, via Shutterstock.

The scandal erupted when Qatar was hosting the men's soccer World Cup. It is a crowning achievement aimed at boosting international visibility following criticism of its treatment of migrant workers and sexual minorities. The European Parliament plays little role in the EU. But resolutions on human rights, even if rarely binding, are still important to a country's reputation.

Over the past six weeks, the agency has struggled to contain the scandal's aftermath.

Kairi was dismissed as vice president and suspended by the political group she belongs to. Lawmakers have halted work on all Qatar-related files, including a new law allowing Qataris to travel to the block without visas. The parliamentary delegation and commissions dealing with human rights and the Gulf have been reorganized.

Last week, Mezzola unveiled a detailed plan to increase transparency and make lawmaker corruption more difficult.