Belgian federal prosecutors suspect Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino of taking money in exchange for blocking resolutions that damaged the interests of non-EU countries, according to a document published Wednesday by the European Parliament.
The allegation is mentioned in one of two reports that will be put to a vote Thursday as part of a procedure to strip Cozzolino and his fellow Socialist and Democrats MEP Marc Tarabella of their immunity from investigation as part of a major corruption inquiry. Belgian prosecutors are probing allegations that current and former MEPs and their associates took bribes from Qatar and Morocco.
The report on Cozzolino states: “It appears in the ongoing investigation that Andrea Cozzolino, after 2019, is suspected of having participated in an agreement with other people which entailed collaborating in order to protect the interests of foreign states in the European Parliament.”
Prosecutors suspect Cozzolino of being part of an agreement that involved “preventing the adoption of parliamentary resolutions that could harm the interests of these states, in exchange for sums of money,” according to the report.
The reports were written by Left group co-chair MEP Manon Aubry, who had access to certain judicial documents from Belgian authorities that were shared as part of their request to lift immunity from the two MEPs.
Prosecutors suspect Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella of “having taken certain positions in the European Parliament in favor of a third country in exchange for cash,” according to the report on him. “A testimony against him puts forward that he may have been compensated several times for a total amount estimated to be from €120,000 to €140,000.”
Cozzolino chaired the Parliament’s delegation with Maghreb countries, including Morocco, and was the S&D group’s lead MEP on so-called human rights urgencies, parliamentary texts that are published each month condemning violations outside the EU.
According to the reports, the preliminary charges Cozzolino and Tarabella could face are just as serious as those that the four people currently in pre-trial detention have already been handed by prosecutors, notably corruption, participation in a criminal organization and money laundering.
Cozzolino chose to defend himself in a closed-door hearing of the legal affairs committee last week. His lawyers told journalists he had never received any form of compensation from foreign powers.
Tarabella waived his right to defend himself at the committee. His lawyer Maxim Töller told POLITICO: “He didn’t receive anything.”
MEPs in the Parliament’s legal affairs committee voted unanimously in favor of the reports on Tuesday and a similar result is expected in the final vote by all MEPs Thursday.
At that point, according to Parliament’s rules, the institution’s President Roberta Metsola will officially inform the two MEPs and the Belgian prosecutors of the decision.
The next steps will be in the hands of the Belgian prosecutors.