April 14. 2024. 7:46

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Belgian MEP Tarabella claims innocence in Qatargate

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella continues to claim his innocence with regard to any involvement in the Qatargate scandal, after he was taken into custody Friday and heard by investigators over the weekend.

Tarabella, who had been charged with public corruption, money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation due to his alleged involvement in the cash-for-influence scheme known as the Qatargate scandal, had his home, a safe deposit box, and multiple offices of the town hall of which he is mayor searched, Belgian news media reported on Friday.

The Belgian MEP was also heard by investigators on Friday and spent his night in a cell. He was then heard by the examining magistrate Saturday.

Tarabella’s hearing went “well”, and that he has “answered all the investigators’ questions frankly and in a calm atmosphere”,” Tarabella’s lawyer Maxim Toller said, Le Soir reported. “No new evidence has been presented to corroborate the accusations of money transfer, nor has anything new been presented. The only evidence is what [Antonio] Panzeri said about my client,” Toller said.

“[Tarabella] continues to claim his innocence, says he never received money or gifts in exchange for favours […]. It is the words of a criminal, Panzeri, against the words of a man who has been honest all his life,” he continued. Since the scandal broke, Tarabella has claimed his innocence.

The Belgian MEP was accused by former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri (S&D) of receiving large amounts of money in exchange for softening his stance on Qatar. On 11 December 2022, investigators searched his home, but nothing suspicious was found.

This did not prevent him from being excluded from his national party, the Socialist Party (PS), and from his group in the European Parliament, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) – and thus becoming a non-attached member of the institution.

On 2 February, his parliamentary immunity was lifted at the request of the Belgian authorities, a decision supported by Tarabella, who voted to raise his own immunity.

On Sunday, Paul Magnette, the president of the PS, spoke on RTL about Tarabella. For him, the exclusion of Tarabella from the PS clearly signals that there is “no place for corruption and abuse” within his party.

Magnette acknowledged that excluding Tarabella before the case is decided remains “harsh”. If Tarabella is cleared, he could be reinstated, Magnette added.

The Brussels council chamber will examine whether Tarabella will remain in custody on 16 February.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)