Main suspect in EU corruption scandal makes a deal with Belgian prosecutors to ‘spill the beans’

Image of Pier Antonio Panzeri. Credit: Wikipedia - By Diliff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30995720

After signing a deal with the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office, former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri is expected to reveal all about the alleged EU corruption scandal.

 

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced on Tuesday, January 17, that Pier Antonio Panzeri had signed a so-called ‘repentance agreement’. As a result, the former MEP is expected to receive a more lenient sentencing in the alleged corruption scandal that has engulfed the European Parliament recently.

According to the prosecutor’s office: “It is only the second time in Belgian legal history, since the introduction of the so-called ‘pentiti’ law that these proceedings result in the signing of a memorandum”.

‘Pentiti’ is a term used colloquially to designate collaborators of justice in Italian criminal procedure terminology who were formerly part of criminal organisations who decided to collaborate with a public prosecutor.

Panzeri’s signing of such a deal should now result in his admitting his involvement in the bribery scandal. In what the prosecutor’s office described as an ‘important development’, his desire to collaborate with the authorities will potentially throw more light on the current investigation.

Despite his deal, Panzeri is still expected to receive a prison sentence of some sort – although probably lenient – and a fine. His assets – which the prosecutors estimated at around €1m –  will most likely be confiscated as well.

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said: “This deal refers to an undertaking whereby repentant pledges to make substantial, revealing, truthful and complete statements regarding the involvement of third parties and, if applicable, his or her own involvement regarding criminal offences within the covered case”.

The Italian must now expose the inner dealings that went on, including the modus operandi of the alleged corruption ring. He is duty-bound to reveal the identities of anybody ‘he admits to having bribed’, whether known or unknown, along with stakeholders and all financial structures and agreements made with other countries.

At the heart of this probe is an alleged cash-for-favour scheme that is believed to involve a Middle Eastern country paying large sums of money to influence policy-making in the European Parliament. Qatar and Morocco have denied any involvement despite both nations being suspected.

Large sums of cash were discovered by Belgian police investigating the scandal, including €600,000 allegedly discovered at his home. Panzeri is suspected of being the main intermediary between the money and the scheme, according to confessions leaked to the media.

He has been detained since the middle of last December, reportedly on various charges, including participating in a criminal organisation ‘as a leader’, ‘active and passive corruption’, and ‘money laundering’.

Eva Kaili, the former Greek MEP and EU deputy is also currently detained. Francesco Giorgi, her domestic partner, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the Secretary General of the NGO ‘No Peace Without Justice’, are being held in custody with her.

A request has also been filed by the Belgian authorities to lift the immunity of two others. These are Belgian MEP, Marc Tarabella, and Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian MEP, as reported by euronews.com.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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