The Belgian MEP who has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for supporting pro-Qatari policies has been officially expelled from both his EU parliamentary group as well as his political party in Belgium, Belga News Agency has reported.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Marc Tarabella, who was recently accused by Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri of accepting bribes of up to €140,000, had been expelled from the centre-left Belgian Socialist Party (PS) as well as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). He had previously been temporarily suspended from both parties.
"The decision was not easy," an unnamed source within the S&D group told De Standaard. "But the group wants to make it clear that it opts for transparency and will not backtrack on the necessary reforms."
PS President Paul Magnette told the same newspaper that PS's decision to exclude the 59-year-old MEP was taken in order to maintain "coherence".
"When he was suspended in Europe, we also suspended him in the PS," Magnette explained. "The presumption of innocence is preserved, and if there is nothing to blame him for, he can return. But if we didn't have this now — after the decision of S&D, no one would have understood why he could stay with us."
Presumption of innocence?
Tarabella's expulsion followed Panzeri's decision on Tuesday to collaborate with the Belgian authorities in exchange for receiving a "limited" prison sentence.
In leaked testimony published by De Standaard, Panzeri alleged that he had paid Tarabella "several times, for a total amount of €120,000 to €140,000" over the past two years.
He added: "The money was handed over in cash. I gave it to him at different times, sometimes I was accompanied by Francesco Giorgi [Panzeri's former parliamentary assistant and the partner of Greek MEP Eva Kaili]. That happened in different places. The money was in paper bags."
- Scandal at European Parliament: Panzeri to collaborate with Belgian authorities
- Scandal at European Parliament: Belgian MEP Tarabella accused of receiving €140,000 bribe
In an interview with RTBF, Tarabella's lawyer suggested that his client's expulsion from PS and S&D violated the principle of the presumption of innocence: "He is being expelled from S&D and PS without ever being questioned."
Tarabella himself later told RTL that he is feeling "calm", adding that it had been more than a month since Belgian investigators searched his home: "I'm waiting to be heard by the investigators. I'm waiting for their invitation."
Although Tarabella has not been charged with any crime, the Belgian authorities have requested that he be stripped of his parliamentary immunity. The request is expected to be approved by the European Parliament in the coming weeks.