World news

“Qatargate” in the European Parliament: is Morocco also under suspicion?

Economic investments abroad, sports, or good diplomatic offices… Qatar spares no means or area to increase its influence in the world. The alleged largesse of the small state is now at the heart of a resounding corruption scandal in Brussels, where several members of the European Parliament – including one of its vice-presidents, the Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili – are suspected to have received large sums of money from Qatar to defend its interests. Implicated in the investigation for corruption, the companion of Eva Kaili, Francesco Giorgi, is also in preventive detention, as well as the Italian Pier-Antonio Panzeri, former European deputy. More than one and a half million euros in cash were found by investigators during their searches in Belgium, a large part of which was at the latter’s.

But Qatar would not be the only state involved in the affair… Morocco would also appear in the investigation. The Italian daily La Repubblica reported Thursday, December 17 the detailed confession of one of the protagonists, Francesco Giorgi, as noted by RFI. According to Pier-Antonio Panzeri’s assistant, to influence European decisions on the Western Sahara files and the control of migrant flows, the two men were in contact with three people, including the Moroccan ambassador to Poland. , Abderrahim Atmoun.

The Belgian daily The evening also reports that Pier-Antonio Panzeri and Abderrahim Atmoun describe themselves as “good friends” on social networks, and meet regularly as co-presidents of a body for exchanges between the European and Moroccan parliaments.

Pier-Antonio Panzeri’s wife and daughter were arrested in Italy under a European warrant issued by the Belgian prosecutor’s office. They are suspected of having known and benefited from the financial or in-kind benefits received by the former MEP. They were placed under house arrest. According to Belgian court documents accompanying the European arrest warrant consulted by the Ansa agency, Pier-Antonio Panzeri is suspected of having used his influence in the European Parliament “for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco”.

“A major reform package ready” for 2023

Saying they were “appalled” by alleged acts of corruption and money laundering, MEPs decided to suspend “all work on legislative files relating to Qatar”. In the first place those concerning a liberalization of visas for Qatar and Kuwait, as well as an agreement on aviation. At the end of the judicial inquiry, the parliamentarians also undertook to “create a commission of inquiry […] on cases of corruption and abuse from third countries” aimed at influencing Parliament.

In addition, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola announced, during a European summit in Brussels, that she was “in the process of finalizing a package of far-reaching reforms which will be ready at the beginning of next year”. In response to a reporter, she said she declined an invitation from Qatar to attend the FIFA World Cup. “I declined because I have concerns about this country,” she said. She said she had “two meetings with representatives of the Qatari government in Brussels”, and had “refused” the request of the Gulf country to address the European Parliament.


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