European lawmakers have stripped two MEPs Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella of legal immunity at the request of the Belgian authorities investigating a corruption scandal that has rocked the European Parliament.
At the same time, European parliamentarians deny their guilt.
The European Parliament corruption scandal began to gain momentum when a Greek lawmaker and three other suspects were arrested on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.
Then one of the suspects agreed to “tell everything”, deciding on a deal with law enforcement.
Pier Antonio Panzeri is said to have led a network that took bribes from Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence in the European Parliament. During searches in Brussels and Italy, about 1.5 million euros were seized in cash.
Both Qatar and Morocco have strongly denied accusations that they sought influence over MEPs. However, the prosecutor’s office said that Pantseri admitted his “criminal responsibility.”
In January, Tarabella’s house was searched: Belgian police detained four suspects. Prosecutors then asked Parliament to lift his and Cozzolino’s immunity from prosecution. Both parliamentarians were members of the parliamentary center-left grouping of socialists and democrats.
Voting took place on Thursday morning. MEPs simply raised their hands when the details of the case were read out.
Mark Tarabella himself attended the vote. He stated that he voted to waive his immunity in order to “be able to answer investigators’ questions and help the authorities shed light on this case.”
According to a parliamentary report on Tarabella, investigators suspect him of supporting “certain positions in the European Parliament in favor of a third country in exchange for cash payments” for two years. Testimony against him involves several payments totaling between 120,000 and 140,000 euros, the report says.