© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Parliament began a month-long procedure on Monday to waive the immunity from prosecution of two lawmakers who Belgian investigators want to question over a cash-for-influence corruption scandal.
Parliament President Roberta Metsola told the assembly in Strasbourg that Belgium had requested immunity be lifted for Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella, both of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats.
The parliament’s committee on legal affairs will review the requests and seek to conclude within a month to allow parliament to vote in its next full session in mid-February.
Tarabella and Cozzolino, through their lawyers, both deny wrongdoing and say they are ready to waive their immunity and respond to questions by Belgian authorities.
Greek member of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, along with two others are in Belgian custody facing charges of corruption, money laundering in relation to alleged payments from Qatar.
Qatar and Kaili have denied wrongdoing, while Panzeri’s lawyer has declined to comment.
Kaili’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, who is also in custody, has confessed to taking bribes and said he suspected Tarabella of receiving money from Qatar, according to a source close to the investigation. Giorgi’s lawyer has declined to comment.
Tarabella’s lawyer said the lawmaker had visited Qatar twice and had been fully transparent about these trips to construction sites and work camps, with a focus on addressing human and labour rights and freedom of expression.
The European Parliament this week will select a member to replace Eva Kaili as one of its vice presidents and debate the scandal, that has been dubbed “Qatargate”.