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"Qatargate" investigation, the EU committee votes to lift the immunity of two MEPs

"Qatargate" investigation, the EU committee votes to lift the immunity

A committee of the European Parliament has voted to remove the immunity of two MEPs following a request from Belgian authorities investigating the "Qatargate" bribery and corruption scandal that has rocked the EU assembly.

MEPs on the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee voted unanimously with no abstentions on Tuesday to lift the immunity of Belgium's Marc Tarabella and Italy's Andrea Cozzolino, The Guardian reports.

The European Parliament is widely expected to endorse the committee's view when it votes on Thursday, officially triggering the end of immunity from prosecution for the two MEPs.

The request to waive immunity came from Belgian authorities, which have charged four people with bribery, money laundering and membership of a criminal organization in connection with the alleged payments from Qatar.

All four – former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, incumbent Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her assistant Italian MEP Francesco Giorgi and the head of an NGO in Brussels, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca – have been remanded in custody.

Like Tarabella and Cozzolino, Panzeri and Kaili were members of the Socialists and Democrats group of the European Parliament. The three MEPs in office have been expelled from the bloc.

Kaili automatically lost immunity because prosecutors believed they caught him red-handed. Under Belgian law, MEPs do not have immunity from prosecution if they are suspected of being caught in the act of a crime.

Police seized around €150,000 (£130,000) from the Brussels apartment she shared with her suspected colleague Giorgi. On the same day, Kail's father was arrested for trying to leave a Brussels hotel with €750,000 hidden in his luggage, although he was later released without charge.

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