Corruption scandal: Two more socialist MEPs set to have immunity lifted

Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella.
Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella. Copyright European Parliament.
By Efi koutsokosta
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Both deny any involvement in the illicit lobbying scandal allegedly involving Qatar and Morocco.

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The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to lift the immunity of Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella, two MEPs caught up in the corruption scandal rocking Brussels.

The vote by the JURI committee is expected to be rubberstamped by the entire plenary on Thursday — a step necessary for Belgian authorities to investigate and potentially charge the two men.

Manon Aubry, the co-leader of the Left group in the European Parliament and the rapporteur on Tuesday's votes, told journalists the committee vote came “without surprise” as the two MEPs were willing to have their immunity lifted to facilitate the investigation.

Both MEPs deny any involvement in the illicit lobbying allegedly conducted by Qatar by Morocco that has so far seen four people arrested and charged for participating in a criminal organisation.

These include Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her life partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.

Cozzolino is an Italian socialist MEP who succeeded Panzeri — the alleged leader of the criminal organisation under investigation — at the helm of the EU-Morocco parliamentary committee. Belgian MEP Tarabella, also from the socialist group, is vice chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the Arab peninsula.

Both were mentioned by Panzeri during his hearings with a judge since his arrest in early December, according to a confidential document from the parliament seen by Euronews. 

The former MEP, the document states, told authorities that Cozzolini agreed to try to squash resolutions against Morroco in exchange for €50,000 back in 2019, and that Tarabella received between €120,000 and €140,000 in cash to support certain positions in favour of Qatar.

Panzeri has struck a deal with Belgian authorities to divulge everything he knows about the scandal and in which he recognised being one of the leaders of the network, in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

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