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“Panziri Network”… Details of corruption accusations in the European Parliament


For a member of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili lived the life of a movie star, as the Greek politician spent her free time and holidays on luxury yachts and nightclubs of the Aegean beaches, with supermodels and celebrities of art and politics.

Today, the former TV news anchor, 44, is in a prison on the outskirts of the Belgian capital, Brussels, after being accused by Belgian prosecutors of “accepting money and gifts from Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influencing the decisions of the European Parliament.”

Doha and Rabat deny attempting to bribe EU officials, and warn the two countries of the impact of these accusations on their relations with the European Union.

It has not yet been proven whether Kylie was innocent and a victim of deception by her friend Francesco Giorgi, who was a parliamentary aide, as her lawyer claims, or whether she really benefited from lax oversight by the European Parliament to fill her pockets.

Whatever the answer, there is no doubt that the corruption case has shaken the European Union and forced it to confront uncomfortable truths about how it manages pressure from foreign countries.

The name of Eva Kaili and her boyfriend, Giorgi, appeared in the “network” of the former member of Parliament, Pierre Antonio Panzieri, the central figure in the corruption investigation, in the wake of raids carried out by the Belgian police on the homes of current and former deputies, parliamentary aides and heads of non-governmental organizations that worked with the deputies.

Prosecutors believe that “Qatar used Panziri and his network to improve its image in Brussels before the FIFA World Cup.” Investigators also suspect that the 67-year-old Italian “also received bribes and gifts from Moroccan officials for more than a decade, in exchange for influencing the federation’s policies.” interest in Morocco,” according to the newspaper.

At the beginning of this month, the European Parliament began a month-long procedure to consider a request to lift the immunity of two other suspects, the Italian Andrea Cozzolino and the Belgian Mark Tarabella, both of whom belong to the Social Democratic movement in Parliament.

The leader of the Liberal Renewal Group in Parliament, Stefan Sigourney, stresses the need for rapid reforms, otherwise the scandal will increase doubts about European institutions, adding: “If we do not solve this issue before the summer, extremist discussions will fuel the next European elections (in May 2024)”, Pointing out that “the European Parliament lagged behind many local parliaments with regard to the rules of transparency and the fight against corruption.”

For her part, Arancha Gonzalez, the former Spanish foreign minister and former advisor to the European Commission, says, “The scandal undermines the legitimacy of the entire European project,” adding that the European Union “should send a message of zero tolerance for corruption and foreign interference.”

“threads of the case”

Last December 9, Panziri, the former member of the European Parliament and the main suspect in the corruption scandal, was arrested, in conjunction with the arrest of Eva Kylie and her companion, the Italian parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi.

The Italian General Director of the International Trade Union Confederation, Luca Visentini, and Niccolo Vega Talamanca, who was running a group of human rights campaigns, were also arrested.

Vicentini was released without charge, but Caeli, Panziri, Jorge and Vega Talamanca were charged with corruption, money laundering and membership of a criminal organization.

The Belgian authorities confiscated about 1.5 million euros in cash in total, including 300,000 from Kylie’s home.

The investigation into allegations of corruption began initially, through an intelligence operation of the Belgian intelligence service in 2021, in cooperation with several other European intelligence services, to investigate Morocco and Qatar’s relations with the European Union.

In July 2022, Belgian intelligence officers planted video cameras at Panziri’s home in Brussels, after they found 700,000 euros in cash hidden there, to inform the Belgian police and the Brussels prosecutor, according to officials familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors allege that the Italian parliamentarian “received money from Qatar and Morocco to serve their interests in the halls of the European institution,” while Kylie was his “right arm,” according to legal documents seen by the Financial Times.

The EP met Qatari ministers in Brussels, visited Doha twice, and made an unexpected appearance to vote for visa abolition for Qataris wishing to visit the EU during a parliamentary committee meeting of which she was not a member.

Her friend, Giorgi, also attended the vote, accompanied by a Qatari official, as confirmed by a number of parliamentarians present, explaining that they jumped and cheered after the approval of this decision, which was postponed after the “corruption issue” exploded.

And last November, Parliament voted on a resolution criticizing the human rights situation in Qatar, and with the intervention of Kylie, the text of the resolution was diluted, after amendments were proposed by deputies from the socialist and right-of-center groups, according to public records.

Some members of the European Parliament highlight that the movements of the aforementioned parliamentarians had no “actual impact on the parliament’s decisions.”

“My impression is that the [Panziri] group was trying to show the Qataris that they are working hard on their behalf, and that’s why they made all these scenes,” says Brando Benifi, head of the Italian Democratic Party’s socialist delegation. “But they didn’t really gain any substantial results.”

The newspaper highlighted that the traditional diplomatic efforts of Qatar and Morocco have yielded greater revenues for the two countries, after the Commission and the Council of the European Union announced their support for visa abolition for Qataris, and the keenness of member states to obtain Qatari gas supplies.

Similarly, in 2019, the European Union concluded a fishing agreement with Morocco. And last March, Spain supported Rabat’s proposed plan for autonomy for Western Sahara, ending a year-long diplomatic dispute.

“Panziri Network”

In addition to Eva Caili and Francesco Giorgi, the Antonio Panziri network, suspected of being involved in the corruption case, includes Niccolo Vega Talamanca, who is the Secretary General of “No Peace Without Justice”, an Italian human rights group. The Belgian judiciary accuses him of being involved in the scandal, but he denies committing. No violations.

In addition to Luca Visentini, an Italian trade unionist who was arrested and released, he admitted receiving 50,000 euros from Panziri to finance his election campaign for the presidency of the International Trade Union Confederation, and considers the accusations against him to be “absolutely untrue.”

Along with Marc Tarabella, 59, a member of the European Parliament and the Belgian Socialist Party, who attended many meetings with Panziri and visited Qatar twice, who denies any wrongdoing, after the police raided his house and the prosecution demanded that his parliamentary immunity be lifted.

Another Italian suspect, Andrea Cozzolino, 62, a member of the European Parliament, whose immunity prosecutors have also demanded, was vice-chairman of the Maghreb-European Relations Committee, who denies any wrongdoing.

And the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, announced this January a series of reform measures aimed at addressing the consequences of a resounding corruption scandal, while deputies and experts warned that it would remain below what is required to restore confidence in the parliamentary institution.

It is expected that all the threads of the supposed corruption scandal will unfold, after Panzizi’s lawyer announced a deal for cooperation with the Belgian judiciary.

The former member of the European Parliament intends to inform investigators of the corruption system in which he admits to participating, including revealing the identities of his partners, in return for issuing a reduced sentence against him, according to AFP.

Source: alhurra