Second MP charged and another arrested in Qatargate probe

A second MEP has been charged with corruption and another arrested while Belgian prosecutors continue their investigation into the “Qatargate” scandal.

Marc Tarabella, a Belgian socialist, was remanded in custody on Saturday after being charged with corruption, money laundering and involvement in a criminal organization. He was arrested on Friday, just eight days after Parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution.

He denies the allegation.

Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian socialist, was arrested at a hospital in Naples on Friday night, according to his lawyer. The Belgian federal prosecutor confirmed the arrest and demanded his transfer to Belgium.

Belgian authorities claim they and others took bribes from Qatar and Morocco to shape EU policy.

Cozzolino’s attorney, Dimitri De Beco, said his client was being treated for a heart problem. “Our client is against his transfer to Belgium. We sought and obtained his release immediately. The Naples Court of Appeal confirmed today that there is no reason to deprive our client of his liberty under these conditions.”

“M Cozzolino has returned home where he will continue to exercise his rights against these unjustified allegations.”

Belgian prosecutors said they could not confirm his release but were still demanding his return to Brussels.

Tarabella is the sixth person charged with the same three offences.

Eva Kaili, a Greek socialist MEP who was vice-president of the parliament, remains in detention. So did Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP who headed a human rights organization, and Francesco Giorgi, his former assistant and Kaili’s partner. Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, general secretary of another human rights group, was released on bail on 4 February.

Panzeri’s accountant, Monica Rossana Bellini, was arrested in Milan last month and is awaiting extradition to Belgium.

Panzeri, who is believed to be the head of the group, reached an agreement and admitted to working for the foreign country, federal prosecutors said. Giorgi has made a partial confession, according to documents obtained by the Financial Timeswhile Figà-Talamanca, Kaili and Bellini deny wrongdoing.

Figà-Talamanca, secretary-general of No Peace Without Justice, released a statement on Saturday saying he was grateful to be released from prison and would continue his fight for human rights.

“I’ve worked alongside people who are wrongfully imprisoned all my life, and I feel like I’ve gotten a little taste of what some of them have endured for years,” he said. He thanked supporters who believed in his innocence.

Panzeri’s wife and daughter are under house arrest in Italy.

Police say they found €1.5 million in cash from Panzeri and Kaili and in a suitcase owned by Kaili’s father.

They also searched on Friday a safe deposit box used by Tarabella at a bank in Liege and several offices in the town hall of Anthisnes in southern Belgium, where Tarabella is mayor. Belgian authorities said they believed third countries illegally paid him between €120,000 and €140,000.

Qatar’s alleged motivation was to oppose resolutions condemning its treatment of migrant workers ahead of the World Cup and to secure visa-free travel for its citizens. The Qatari government denies the allegations.

Morocco was reportedly seeking support for its claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara and deals with the EU over trade in fisheries and agricultural products. The Moroccan government denied any wrongdoing. Second MP charged and another arrested in Qatargate probe

Adam Bradshaw

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