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Belgian prosecutor seeks to lift immunity of 2 more MEPs in corruption probe

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Belgium Corruption at Qatargate The scandal continues to spread.

Authorities did not release the names of the suspects, but a person familiar with the process said they were Socialist MPs Andrea Cozzolino and Mark Talavera.

A Belgian lawyer for Cozzolino declined to comment on Monday. Talavera did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Maxime Toller, told Berga news agency on Monday that his client supported the stripping of his immunity to protect himself from the charges. denied any wrongdoing after his name was linked to the investigation.

Countries such as Qatar and Morocco sought to influence EU policy by offering expensive vacations and other gifts to lawmakers and staff, according to legal documents seen by the Financial Times. An early series of police raids resulted in the recovery of €1.5 million in cash.

MEPs can only be prosecuted in Belgium if they are arrested while committing a criminal act or if parliament lifts their immunity.

Eva Kairi, a member of the European Parliament and socialist, is in custody awaiting trial on charges of corruption, money laundering and joining a criminal organization. Three of her others were also charged, including Francesco Giorgi, an Italian who married Kairi and works for Cozzolino. Giorgi’s former boss, former MEP Pia He Antonio Panzeri, who is now head of the human rights NGO Fight his Impunity, has also been charged. According to local media reports confirmed by the FT, Giorgi confessed to prosecutors that he handled the cash for Panzeri’s alleged scheme.

Niccolò Figa Talamanca, who ran another human rights organization registered at the same address as Panzeri, was also indicted. He, Kairi, and Panzeri deny any wrongdoing.

Parliament President Roberta Mezzola said on Monday that she would ensure that MEPs would move quickly to decide whether to comply with the lifting of exemptions.

“From the first moment, the European Parliament has been doing everything in its power to support the investigation and we will continue to ensure that there is no impunity. Those responsible realize that this Parliament is on the side of the law. Corruption is irreparable and we will do everything to fight it,” she said.

Requests must be discussed by the Congressional Legal Committee in a closed meeting. The committee then recommends to Congress as a whole to approve or reject the request. Mezzola said parliament wants him to vote by February 13.

According to the website, both Italian MEPs, Cozzolino and Panzeri, were often photographed together at events, and he was attending a meeting for Panzeri’s NGO, Fight Impunity.

Cozzolino succeeded Panzeri as chairman of a parliamentary delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries and traveled to Morocco. He was suspended from the Socialist and Democratic center-left groups in Congress in December.

Cozzolino told the Belgian daily Le Soir on December 21: ”.

Talavera’s home and his assistant’s office were raided by police in early December. S&D Group suspended his membership.

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