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Two EU graft scandal suspects leave prison

Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri struck a plea deal with Belgian prosecutors
Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri struck a plea deal with Belgian prosecutors - Copyright AFP Lillian SUWANRUMPHA
Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri struck a plea deal with Belgian prosecutors - Copyright AFP Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

Two key suspects in the probe into alleged bribery by Qatar and Morocco at the European Parliament left prison in Brussels on Thursday for house arrest. 

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella and Italian former EU lawmaker Pier Antonio Panzeri were released with electronic bracelets to their residences in Belgium.

The move means that a Greek legislator in the parliament, Eva Kaili, remains the only suspect still in jail. She is expected to move to home detention in the coming days, also with an electronic bracelet.

The so-called Qatargate inquiry focuses on alleged attempts by the Gulf state and North African kingdom Morocco to buy influence in the parliament, the European Union’s directly elected assembly. 

Both countries deny any involvement, as do Kaili and Tarabella.

Panzeri, who struck a plea deal with prosecutors to spill the beans on the people and countries involved, clutched two bags as he climbed into a waiting car outside the Saint Gilles prison.

He did not speak to the waiting media.

“He is obviously happy to move from prison to his apartment but he remains detained,” Panzeri’s lawyer Laurent Kennes told AFP.

“He’s locked up all day in his apartment with his wife and can’t go out. It’s still complicated.” 

The 67-year-old was detained along with Kaili when police in December swooped on a string of residences in Brussels and netted 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash.

Tarabella was detained in February after Panzeri claimed to have funnelled pay-offs to him.  

The scandal has rocked the EU’s institutions and pushed the parliament to introduce reforms aimed at curbing outside influence. 

AFP
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