Corruption scandal: MEPs lift Cozzolino and Tarabella's immunitiesComments
Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella, two MEPs caught up in the corruption scandal rocking Brussels, had their parliamentary immunities lifted on Thursday.
The vote in the plenary in Brussels follows a request by the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office on 16 January and comes two days after the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee backed the motion.
Both MEPs deny any involvement in the illicit lobbying allegedly conducted by Qatar by Morocco.
Italian MEP Cozzolino was not present for the vote but Tarabella, from Belgium, voted to have his immunity waived.
"I have been asking for the lifting of this immunity since the very first days of this affair in order to be able to answer the questions of the investigators and to help the justice system to shed light on this case," he told reporters after the vote.
"Out of respect for the judicial authorities and for the work of the investigation, I refrained from commenting on the accusations in the press. It was very tempting to respond to them, especially as I am innocent, but I have not yet expressed myself and I will not do so again today in order to reserve the first part of my explanations to the judge. In any case, you should know that I have nothing to reproach myself for," he added.
Four people have been arrested and charged for participating in a criminal organisation as part of the investigation into the alleged cash-for-favours scheme in the European Parliament.
These include Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her life partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.
Panzeri, who preceded Cozzolino at the helm of the EU-Morocco parliamentary committee, implicated both men during his hearings with Belgian authorities since his arrest in early December, according to a confidential document seen by Euronews.
He told a judge, the document states, that Cozzolino agreed to try to squash resolutions against Morroco in exchange for money and that Tarabella — the vice chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the Arab peninsula — received between €120,000 and €140,000 in cash to support certain positions in favour of Qatar.
French MEP Manon Aubry, co-leader of the Left group and the rapporteur on the votes, welcomed the results of the ballots.
"With this investigation, justice is doing its part. But politics isn't. The President of Parliament and the main groups have betrayed the promise of ambitious reforms made in the resolution adopted in December and the "14-point action plan" presented instead by Roberta Metsola is a sham," she added.