Monday, February 6, 2023

More questions than answers as EU corruption scandal unfolds

No one answers the door or the phone at the offices of the two campaign groups linked to a cash-for-favours corruption scandal at the European Union’s parliament, allegedly involving Qatar. No light is visible inside.
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), a pro-human rights and democracy organisation, and Fight Impunity, which seeks to bring rights abusers to book, share the same address, on prime real estate in the governmental quarter of the Belgian capital. The heads of the two organizations are among four people charged since December 9 with corruption, participation in a criminal group and money laundering.
Prosecutors suspect certain European lawmakers and aides “were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence parliament’s decisions”. The groups themselves do not seem to be under suspicion.
Qatar rejects allegations that it’s involved. The Gulf country that’s hosting the soccer World Cup has gone to considerable trouble to boost its public image and defend itself against extensive criticism in the West over its human rights record.
The lawyer for Fight Impunity President Pier Antonio Panzeri is not talking. He declined to comment about his client’s role in an affair that has shaken the European Parliament and halted the assembly’s work on Qatar-related files.
The secretary-general of NPWJ, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, has left jail but must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. On its Italian website, after he stepped down, the group praised his work, saying it hopes “the ongoing investigation will demonstrate the correctness of his actions”. Following months of investigations, police have so far launched more than 20 raids, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy.
Hundreds of thousands of euros have been found in Brussels: at an apartment and in a suitcase at a hotel not far from the parliament. Mobile telephones, computer equipment and the data of 10 parliamentary assistants were seized.

Must Read