Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, a former member of the Francophone socialist PS party, was arrested for questioning as part of the investigation into the so-called Qatargate corruption scandal at the European Parliament, announced the Federal Prosecutor's Office on Friday.
Several house searches took place on Friday morning related to "suspicions of public bribery," and Tarabella was arrested. In the coming hours, the investigating judge will decide whether he will have to appear before court.
"The first search was carried out at the home of a Member of the European Parliament, [Andrea Cozzolino], located in Ixelles," a press release reads. "A bank vault in Liège belonging to a second MEP, [Marc Tarabella], was also searched, as were some offices in Anthisnes town hall."
Tarabella's arrest is considered a logical new step in the investigation into the scandal, as the European Parliament already gave the go-ahead for the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of Tarabella and Cozzolino last week.
Lifted parliamentary immunity
The request to lift the two MEPs' immunity came from the Belgian authorities and is part of the investigation into possible corruption in the Parliament, in which Qatar and Morocco allegedly bribed European politicians.
Earlier, Tarabella and Cozzolino were both expelled from the European Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and suspended from their national parties: Belgium's Francophone socialist PS and Italy's Partido Democrático (PD), respectively.
Both MEPs maintain that they did not take bribes, but they did not oppose the waiving of their immunity. Tarabella has previously also stated that he would cooperate with the investigation and that he would not make any statements to the press about the scandal.
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Tarabella is one of the people mentioned by former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, one of the key suspects in the scandal. Since late 2022, Panzeri has been suspected of participating in a criminal organisation as a leader, money laundering and corruption.
In January, Panzeri struck a deal with the Federal Prosecutor's Office: in exchange for a reduction in his sentence, he is helping the Belgian authorities with the investigation, VRT reports. In that context, Panzeri reportedly stated that he had given €120,000 to €140,000 to Tarabella, who denies these allegations.