EU lawmaker held for questioning in corruption scandal

BRUSSELS — A EU lawmaker linked to a corruption scandal that rocked the bloc’s Parliament in December was detained for questioning as police conducted further raids, Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said Friday.

The office said police searched a banking safe in the city of Liege belonging to Belgian lawmaker Marc Tarabella. Offices in the town hall of Anthisnes, where Tarabella serves as mayor, were also raided.

The European Union’s parliament earlier this month removed Tarabella’s protective immunity to ensure he could be questioned by investigators. The assembly voted overwhelmingly to lift his parliamentary protection as well as that of another lawmaker, Italian Andrea Cozzolino.

Both men have said through their lawyers that they were willing to cooperate with Belgian authorities.

The prosecutor’s office said Taraballa was detained for questioning, adding that it was now up to the investigating judge to decide whether he would be heard within the next hours.

Tarabella has denied any links to the scandal, in which Qatari and Moroccan officials are suspected of offering bribes to influence decisions at the European Parliament. Qatar and Morocco have also vehemently denied involvement, but the assembly has suspended work on all Qatar-related files.

According to the report compiled to lift Taraballa’s immunity, a Belgian investigation showed that he “may have been involved in acts of corruption connected with interference by one or more foreign states aimed at influencing the debates and decisions taken in the European Parliament.”

It said that “testimony against him suggests that such payments were made to him on several occasions, amounting to a total of between” 120,000 and 140,000 euros ($132,00 and $154,000).

The scandal came to light in early December after authorities launched a series of raids across Brussels, and in Italy, seizing hundreds of thousands of euros.

Four people were charged with corruption, money laundering and membership in a criminal organization. They are Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili, who was an assembly vice president until the charges came to light; her partner and parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi; former Italian lawmaker Pier Antonio Panzeri; and the head of a charity group, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca.

Panzeri has since reached an agreement with Belgian prosecutors to act as an informant. He has promised to reveal the names of those involved and how money might have been moved around, in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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