, the scandal of alleged bribery of senior officials of the European Parliament, former MEPs and lobbyists, began to take shape in 2018, when the main suspect in the plot, the former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, was still occupying his seat in Brussels.
Furthermore, the scandal that has profoundly shaken the European institutions is not limited to Qatar and Morocco.
Another of the main defendants for corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization, the parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, has pointed out during the interrogations, according to the Belgian newspaper
at least one third country as the origin of the payments: Mauritania.
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The former vice president of the European Parliament, the Greek socialist Eva Kaili, on November 22, 2022. Photo: Reuters |
The interrogations of the main defendants, four to date - in addition to Panzeri and Giorgi, the former vice president of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, Giorgi's partner, and the former director of an Italian NGO, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, are charged and in preventive detention -, They are revealing a whole network of bribes to influence the decisions of Brussels that was older than previously believed and that could continue to spread to more countries as the investigations progress, in the hands of Belgian justice.
According to Giorgi, apparently the one providing the most information to the Belgian authorities, the idea of working in favor of Qatar began to take shape in 2018, when Panzeri, an Italian Socialist MEP from 2004 to 2019, chaired the European Parliament's human rights subcommittee. .
The idea would have come, always according to the documents to which
Le Soir has had access,
from the former president of the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar and today Minister of Labor of that country, Ali bin Samikh al Marri.
The name of this minister sounds a lot in Brussels: he was the main speaker at the hearing on labor rights in Qatar in relation to the Soccer World Cup that was held by the European Parliament on November 14 and which was denounced by several of the attendees as a “laundering” in favor of Doha.
The current chair of the subcommittee, Belgian socialist Marie Arena, had a strong relationship with Panzeri and her name has come up repeatedly during the
, although at the moment there is no formal accusation against her.
Another of the MEPs who also spoke in favor of Qatar in that session, the Belgian Socialist Marc Tarabella, is also in the circle of suspects and the police searched his home in search of evidence at the beginning of the operation.
Both have been removed from their functions within the group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) chaired by the Spanish Iratxe García and greatly affected by
, since most of those accused or suspected of having some link to the scandal belonged to the European progressive family.
Panzeri's plans began to set in motion shortly after these first contacts.
“At the beginning of 2019, the cooperation began.
We define the amounts, which I have trouble remembering, for our respective interventions.
It was cash,” the parliamentary assistant would have confessed.
Giorgi has also already acknowledged that he is responsible for managing the charges received by those involved for their work to influence "the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament", as the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office has said since the operation began on December 9. arrests and searches that led to the seizure of 1.5 million euros and the arrest of six people, four of whom remain in preventive detention.
Giorgi's statements clash with those of Panzeri, who would have assured the investigating judge that the agreement with Qatar began in October or November 2019, when he was no longer an MEP.
It was also after leaving his seat in Brussels that he, according to his statements, started working for Morocco.
The agreement, according to Panzeri, was "to work to avoid resolutions against the country and, in exchange, receive 50,000 euros."
, the former MEP would have confirmed that one of the intermediaries of the agreement is the current ambassador of Rabat in Poland, Abderrahim Atmoun.
The diplomat has a long career in Brussels, where he co-chaired the Moroccan-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission between 2011 and 2019. There are multiple photographs of Atmoun together with Panzeri and Giorgi from that time, in which the Moroccan moved fluidly through the corridors of the European Parliament.
In addition to seeking to influence European decisions on Qatar and Morocco, the plot led by Panzeri would have also agreed to work in favor of Mauritania.
"They have an image problem and they hired Panzeri to see what they did," Giorgi explained to the Belgian authorities, according to that newspaper.
In exchange, Panzeri would have received "25,000 euros in cash," says the former parliamentary assistant, who has confessed that, on his part, as compensation he was able to rent an apartment of his in Brussels to the Mauritanian ambassador.
Meanwhile, speaking to the
, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said the scale of the
bribery scheme is exceptional.
“We know of cases of interference by state actors trying to influence our democratic system.
Also because of organized crime," said Van Quickenborne, who is once again under special police protection for alleged threats from the powerful drug trafficking mafias in Belgium.
"But bribing members of a parliament, especially the European Parliament, is something quite unique for our civilian intelligence service," he acknowledged.
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