BRUSSELS: Prosecutors on Saturday (11 February) indicted a Belgian member of the European Parliament for corruption after searching his bank vaults as part of an investigation into a Qatar-linked bribery scandal that rocked the EU.
Socialist Marc Talavera, 59, after Belgian federal prosecutors said a raid had targeted his vault in the city of Liege and the city hall offices of Ancisnes, where he is mayor. He was detained by police on Friday.
Talavella has been charged with corruption, money laundering and “joining a criminal organization,” prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric van der Saipt told AFP. This was done as part of a Belgian investigation into alleged bribery linked to Qatar and Morocco.
The so-called Qatargate scandal has shocked EU institutions and parliament hastily called for reforms to limit outside influence.
Parliament voted last week to lift the immunity of Talavella and Italian lawmaker Andrea Cozzolino at the request of Belgian investigators.
Cozzolino, who is suspected of helping Morocco complicit in the European Parliament’s decision, was arrested in Italy on Friday with an international warrant from Belgium, Van der Saipt said.
Italian media reported on Saturday that Cozzolino was under house arrest ahead of Tuesday’s extradition hearing.
Both have claimed to be innocent, and Talavera said he looked forward to the opportunity to clear his name.
Authorities in Qatar and Morocco have denied any involvement in the incident.
Belgian authorities have already identified three suspects after they launched raids in December on multiple addresses, including those of a member of parliament, a former member of parliament and a parliamentary aide, and took €1.5 million (US$1.6 million) in cash. is detained.
“No money, no gifts”
Those detained and indicted for corruption, money laundering and criminal gangs include Eva Kairi, a Greek MP who was one of parliament’s 14 vice-presidents but was subsequently stripped of her position. increase.
The other two are her boyfriend Francesco Giorgi, who was a parliamentary aide, and former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who founded an NGO that deals with parliament.
Panzeri last month struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence, promising to sprinkle beans on the alleged bribe country and the people he paid for it.
Belgian media reported that Panzeri told investigators that he gave Talavera “120,000 to 140,000 euros” for helping him handle matters related to the Gulf state of Qatar.
Talavera’s attorney, Maxime Toller, said on Saturday that Panzeri was accused of “defamation” and that his client again denied accepting any money or gifts in the case.
“It would take the defamation of one person, known as the head of a criminal gang, to cause such a tsunami and unfairly hurt (someone),” Toller said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors say Talavera is expected to appear in court again by Thursday.
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