New allegations have been made against Marc Tarabella, the Belgian MEP who is currently under investigation by the Belgian authorities in connection with the so-called Qatargate corruption scandal, Belga News Agency reports.
The 59-year-old had previously been accused by Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri of accepting illicit funds of up to €140,000 to support pro-Qatari policies; according to Panzeri's latest allegations, Tarabella was set to receive up to €250,000 by the end of the latter's parliamentary term in 2024.
Tarabella was arrested earlier this month by the Belgian authorities, just days after his immunity was formally suspended by the European Parliament. In January, he was officially expelled from both his centre-left EU parliamentary group (the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) as well as his political party in Belgium (the Belgian Socialist Party).
Panzeri, meanwhile, has been held in police custody since his arrest in December. In January, the 67-year-old signed a so-called "repentance agreement" with the Belgian authorities, according to which he agreed to collaborate with investigators in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.
'Nothing to reproach himself for'
Tarabella's defence lawyer, Maxim Töller, vehemently denied Panzeri's latest allegations, and once again affirmed that his client is completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
"Marc Tarabella is of course quite willing to respond to this new version of the confession of the pseudo-repentant Panzeri," Töller said. "He has nothing to reproach himself for... In front of the investigators, he has not avoided any questions and has always answered them frankly."
"No search has yielded the slightest result. He is charged and imprisoned solely on the words of a man who admitted to being the head of a criminal organisation. This is not acceptable," he added.
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This is not the first time Töller has openly questioned Panzeri's motives and personal credibility. Just two weeks ago, he claimed that "Panzeri has every interest, in order to benefit from a reduction in his sentence, to give as much information as possible to investigators".
He added: "There is no guarantee that what [Panzeri] is saying is the truth; everything will be fine for him as long as he is not caught in the act of lying. So I doubt that Panzeri will go back on what he said. He accuses Tarabella in the most infamous of ways, where it is impossible to demonstrate that the allegations are not true."