Pier Antonio Panzeri: The leader of 'Qatargate' agrees to collaborate with justice in exchange for a lesser sentence | International
While in Strasbourg the European Parliament was debating how to improve its practices to regain public trust after the scandal of bribery to the European Parliament allegedly by Qatar and Morocco, the main defendant in the plot, the former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, agreed on Tuesday in Brussels to tell everything to the Belgian courts. As announced by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office, Panzeri has signed a "repentance agreement" by which he agrees to reveal the secrets of the Qatargatethe plot that has shaken the European institutions, in exchange for a limited prison sentence.
Panzeri "has committed to making significant, disclosing, honest and complete statements" about the Qatargatehighlights the statement from the Belgian Prosecutor's Office.
The news came out on the same day that Panzeri was to appear in court to appeal the decision to keep him in pretrial detention for the scandal that broke out with a raid on December 9 in Brussels and that led to the arrest, in addition to the Italian, the then vice-president of the European Parliament, the Greek Eva Kaili; her partner and her parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, director of an Italian NGO linked to the plot for which it is suspected that countries such as Qatar and Morocco paid the alleged implicates in exchange for promoting resolutions and policies in Brussels in their favor, or stopping the refusals. The four are accused of corruption, money laundering and criminal organization and remain in preventive detention for the moment.
Finally, Panzeri did not appear on Tuesday before the judge who was to review his situation, although his lawyer, Laurent Kennes, did, who nevertheless avoided speaking to the press except to denounce, once again, the leaks of the investigation to the media, especially Belgians. The Greek Kaili has a hearing set this Thursday for a judge to decide if she remains in prison, as she decreed at the end of December, or if she can be released on supervised release.
Instead of appealing his arrest, Panzeri signed an agreement with the Belgian justice on Tuesday, whereby he undertakes to inform the investigators of the "modus operandi, the financial agreements with third States, the financial structure created, the beneficiaries of these structures and the involvement of people known or not yet known in the file," says the Prosecutor's Office. In exchange, the court is willing to impose a firm but "limited" prison sentence on Panzeri, who will be confiscated all the property illegally acquired through the Qatargate which, according to the Prosecutor's Office, amounts to at least one million euros.
This is the second time that an agreement of this type has been produced in the Belgian courts since the approval, in 2018, of the so-called “law of pentiti” (repentant in Italian, referring to the Italian law created to combat the mafia). On Monday, the plenary session of the European Parliament approved in its session in Strasbourg to start the process of lifting the immunity of two other MEPs whom the Belgian justice wants to investigate around the scandal, the Italian Andrea Cozzolino and the Belgian Marc Tarabella.
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the belgian newspaper Litter ensures that Panzeri has admitted to having paid more than 120,000 euros in cash to Tarabella, who has so far denied any involvement in the Qatargate. His name appears in the plot from the beginning: one day after the arrest of Panzeri, Kaili and the other defendants, from whom 1.5 million euros in cash were seized, the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, had to return urgently to Brussels from his native Malta to validate the registration of Tarabella's address. In the house, however, according to the first information, no cash was found, unlike in the houses of the former MEP and the vice-president of the MEP, quickly dismissed and whose successor must be chosen this week in Strasbourg.
The pressure around Panzeri had increased with the arrest, in Italy, of his wife and daughter, suspected of being involved in the bribery scheme. Precisely, this Monday a court in Brescia, in northern Italy, accepted the extradition to Belgium of Silvia Panzeri, the 38-year-old daughter of the former MEP, after giving the go-ahead in December to the transfer to Brussels of the detainee's wife. , Maria Colleoni, who has appealed the decision. Both have been under house arrest since December 10.
Before Panzeri, Francesco Giorgi had already admitted, during interrogations, to having participated in the bribery scheme, created around the former Italian socialist MEP and the NGO Fight Impunity that he founded as soon as he left his seat, in 2019, apparently to use it for screen for their illicit business with third countries.
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