A leading MEP at the heart of the Qatargate scandal has renounced his parliamentary immunity so that he may be questioned by the Belgian judicial authorities, Le Soir has reported.
On Wednesday, Andrea Cozzolino issued a statement in which he categorically denied all allegations of corruption against him and indicated his readiness to fully cooperate with the Belgian judicial system in order to establish his innocence.
"For more than a week, I have been questioned daily in the press regarding the Qatargate case, based on suspicions and inferences, while I have not received any summons or communication from the judicial authorities or investigators," Cozzolino said.
"This situation being particularly unfair and trying, I have instructed my lawyers — Federico Conte, Dezio Ferraro and Dimitri de Beco — to inform the Belgian investigating judge, Michel Claise, that I have absolutely never been involved in acts of corruption, but that I am at the disposal of the Belgian judicial system to be heard as soon as possible in order to contribute to the establishment of the truth."
Cozzolino added that he is "ready to renounce the guarantees of parliamentary immunity for this purpose".
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Cozzolino, who as MEP served as the Chair of the Parliamentary Delegation for Relations with Maghreb Countries, is known to have close personal ties to several individuals caught up in Qatargate.
In particular, Cozzolino was a member of the same European Parliamentary party (the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) as Eva Kaili and Antonio Panzeri, two figures whose apartments were found by Belgian investigators to contain more than a million euros in allegedly illicit cash. Both Kaili and Panzeri also "partially confessed" to their guilt earlier this week.
More damningly, Cozzolino also employed Francesco Giorgi — a former aide to Panzeri and Kaili's current partner — as a parliamentary assistant. Giorgi similarly confessed last week to receiving illicit funds from the Qatari government and explicitly implicated both Panzeri and Cozzolino in the scandal, as well as current Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella.