BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to waive the immunity from prosecution of two lawmakers following a request by Belgian investigators to question them over a cash-for-influence corruption scandal.
By a show of hands, the assembly backed proposals to lift the immunity of Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella, both of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats. Tarabella himself also gave his assent in the chamber.
Tarabella and Cozzolino, through their lawyers, have denied wrongdoing and said they are ready to respond to questions by Belgian authorities.
Greek member of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, Italian former member of the European Parliament (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 and Morocco.
Panzeri has agreed to work with Belgian authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence. Qatar and Kaili have denied wrongdoing. Morocco has complained of “judicial harassment” after the graft probe, which has been dubbed “Qatargate”.
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 declined to comment.
Tarabella’s lawyer said the MEP 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.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Arun Koyyur)