Qatargate: Key suspect in E.U. corruption scandal strikes plea deal


BRUSSELS — A key suspect in a corruption case that rocked the European Parliament has minimize a take care of Belgian authorities, agreeing to share particulars on an alleged cash-for-influence scheme — doubtlessly exposing extra European Union dust — in return for a lesser sentence.

Pier Antonio Panzeri, an Italian politician who was an elected member of the E.U.’s legislative physique from 2004 till 2019, signed a memorandum with Belgian officers on Tuesday, admitting his position within the alleged fraud and promising to call names, together with “the identity of persons he admits to having bribed.”

Below the phrases of the deal, Panzeri will obtain a “reduced sentence” with an unspecified jail time. He can even have property confiscated. The assertion from Belgian prosecutors notes that that is solely the second time in Belgian authorized historical past that the “pentiti law” — a reference to Italian legal guidelines permitting investigation into the mafia — has been used.

E.U. corruption probe is a present to the bloc’s critics

Information of Panzeri’s cooperation is the most recent twist in a widening corruption probe that’s already being known as probably the most vital E.U. scandal in latest reminiscence.

After a sequence of police raids in December, Panzeri and a number of other others have been charged on suspicion of cash laundering, corruption and collaborating in a legal group on behalf of an unnamed “Gulf State,” extensively reported to be Qatar.

The opposite suspects embody Eva Kaili, a Greek member of the European Parliament who was till final month one of many physique’s 14 vice presidents, and her accomplice, parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi. Kaili’s lawyer mentioned she maintains her innocence. Qatar denies involvement.

What are the Qatar bribery allegations rocking the European Parliament?

Though the small print of the alleged fraud are nonetheless coming to gentle, Belgian police discovered greater than 1.5 million euros ($1.59 million) in money unfold between houses and a resort. Ten parliamentary places of work have been sealed. Authorities tweeted photographs displaying a suitcase filled with wads of money.

On Monday, the European Parliament started the method of lifting the immunity of two further members, which might permit them to be interviewed as a part of the probe.

The case — and its mafia-like particulars — has shaken the de facto capital of the European Union, elevating questions on corruption and affect peddling, significantly within the European Parliament, and resulting in recent requires ethics oversight.

Prime E.U. officers have promised to toughen ethics guidelines, although these efforts are nonetheless in early levels — and face criticism for being too weak.

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