EU lawmakers back lifting MEPs’ immunity in graft probe

Wednesday, Feb 01, 2023

BRUSSELS: A key European Parliament committee on Tuesday unanimously backed lifting the immunity of two lawmakers implicated in a corruption scandal that has rocked the EU.

Prosecutors in Belgium have urged legislators to strip Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella and Italian lawmaker Andrea Cozzoli of their immunity as part of a probe into alleged bribery by Qatar and Morocco. The parliament´s Committee on Legal Affairs voted 23 to zero to take the move -- paving the way for the entire plenary to decide the issue in a vote on Thursday.

Belgium authorities already have four other suspects in custody after launching raids on several addresses in December -- including those of lawmakers, ex-lawmakers and parliamentary aides -- that turned up 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million in cash). Those detained, and charged with corruption, money-laundering and criminal organisation, include a Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who was one of the parliament´s 14 vice presidents but who has since been stripped of that position.

The other three are: her boyfriend, Francesco Giorgi, who was a parliamentary aide; former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who founded an NGO that dealt with the parliament; and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the head of another NGO at the same address at Panzeri´s. The three are Italian. Belgium suspects them of involvement in a bribery scheme in which Qatar and Morocco funnelled money through NGOs to influence decisions by the European Parliament.