The EU Parliament begins a process to lift the immunity of two legislators
BRUSSELS (AP) — The president of the European Parliament has launched an urgent procedure to waive the immunity of two lawmakers following a request by Belgian judicial authorities investigating a major corruption scandal rocking EU politics.
The European Parliament said on Monday that President Roberta Metsola had asked all services and committees to give priority to the procedure, with the aim of having it completed by February 13.
“From the very beginning, the European Parliament has done everything possible to assist in the investigations and we will continue to make sure there is no impunity,” Metsola said. “Those responsible will find this Parliament on the side of the law. Corruption cannot pay and we will do everything possible to fight it”.
The European Parliament press service did not identify the two MEPs. According to two people familiar with the case who have not been allowed to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing, they are Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella.
Neither immediately responded to inquiries seeking comment.
Tarabella, whose home was raided last month, and Cozzolino have denied wrongdoing and have suspended themselves as members of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) caucus in Parliament.
Cozzolino had previously said he was ready to give up his parliamentary immunity so he could answer questions from authorities.
“When it comes to the request to lift their immunity, the S&D group will follow, in the context of the European Parliament, the procedures provided for in a responsible and constructive manner,” the Socialists and Democrats said.
A third parliamentarian, 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 accuse Kaili of corruption, membership in a criminal organization and money laundering. Kaili, a Greek Socialist MEP, has been in custody since 9 December. Her partner, Francesco Giorgi, an adviser to the European Parliament, is jailed on the same charges.
Kaili was relieved of her duties as deputy speaker of parliament after being impeached. She would normally have enjoyed immunity from prosecution, but she was brought before a judge after Belgian police raided premises in Brussels last month and reportedly found large sums of cash at her home. .
Kaili and Giorgi are suspected of working with Giorgi’s former boss, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former EU lawmaker. According to the arrest warrants, Panzeri “is suspected of politically interfering with members working in the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, in exchange for payment.”
Parliament halted work on the files involving Qatar while it investigates what impact the cash bribery and influence gifts scandal might have had. Qatar vehemently denies its involvement and Morocco has yet to respond to allegations that its ambassador to Poland may have been involved.
Belgian prosecutors are also seeking the handover 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, was also charged and jailed in the affair.
The scandal came to public attention after police launched more than 20 raids, mainly in Belgium but also in Italy. Hundreds of thousands of euros were found at an address and in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel. Mobile phones and computer and data equipment were seized.