Secret Qatargate documents published by Politico

Panzeri during a conference organized by the European Parliament in 2018 (European Parliament, 2018)

It contains concrete examples of the activity of Antonio Panzeri, accused of running a corruption network in the European Parliament

News website on Monday Politician published Some information contained in internal documents of the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office about the alleged corruption scandal known as “Qatargate”, which has implicated several parliamentarians, European officials and lobbyists for almost a year.

The article is written by Politician It should not contain unexpected news or mention people other than those already involved because they have been charged or questioned. But the leaked documents seem to better explain the activities of former parliamentarian Pierre Antonio Panzeri, who is accused of being the head of a corruption network that tried to influence some European parliamentarians. According to the accusation, Panzri promised them money and benefits in exchange for favorable decisions of some countries, especially Qatar and Morocco.

Politician He writes, for example, that Panzeri recorded in a document about 300 activities carried out on behalf of his employers. This document will also mention Maria Arena, the current deputy of the Belgian Socialist Party, who is very close to Panzeri. Arena was questioned as part of the investigation but was not charged by the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.

In various other paragraphs of the document Panzeri says that he influenced various decisions taken by the European Parliament in favor of employers, some even at a high level, but it is not clear whether he actually did that, and whether he obtained those decisions by giving Money or the promise thereof to sitting parliamentarians. Lobbying is permitted within the European Parliament, but it turns into a process of corruption when officials or parliamentarians in an institution make a decision in exchange for a very tangible advantage: money, favors or advantages for themselves, their relatives or colleagues.

Information you conveyed Politician However, it should be taken with caution. Based on the latest developments, it appears that some accusations issued by the Public Prosecutor’s Office have invalidated the investigation Suffered from various slowdowns It appears that the experiment will not begin until the spring of 2024.

The case began in mid-December 2022, when the Belgian authorities arrested several European parliamentarians, lobbyists, and officials on charges of serving the interests of at least three countries outside the Union, namely Qatar, Morocco, and Mauritania, in exchange for paying sums of money.

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Panzeri, a former trade unionist and European parliamentarian for the Democratic Party, was arrested between 2004 and 2019, and who later became a lobbyist. His historical collaborator is Francesco Giorgi, one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, and Giorgi’s Greek partner, Eva Kylie. Then in February, two more European parliamentarians, Andrea Cozzolino and Mark Tarabella, were arrested. Also in February, Panzeri admitted his involvement in the case and signed a cooperation agreement with the Belgian public prosecutor’s office in exchange for a reduced sentence. He had been under house arrest since April and was released on conditions at the end of September. All other people involved have meanwhile been released from prison, awaiting trial in which they are charged with corruption, money laundering and criminal association.

– Read also: What happened to Qatarjet?

Politician He writes that among the documents viewed, there will be in particular a table of eight cards and more than 300 entries found in Giorgi’s laptop during searches carried out by the Belgian police, managed in cooperation with Panzeri. Each entry relates to an action that Panzeri and Giorgi could have taken to manipulate the European Parliament’s agenda, accompanied by compensation requested from the countries that would have benefited from it, namely Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania. According to the table, the two could have received a total of four million euros between 2018 and 2022. During searches of the homes and offices of participating parliamentarians, a total of one and a half million euros in cash was confiscated.

According to the documents, the two achieved their goals using a network of collaborators who worked within Parliament and whom they described as their “soldiers.” It is not clear whether these included people who were not identified or arrested by the Belgian police, nor whether the “soldiers” received part of the compensation collected by Panzeri and Giorgi.

The actions described in the documents include blocking several parliamentary resolutions condemning Qatar for its lack of respect for the human rights of foreign workers, and smaller operations but indicating the relationship that will be established between European officials and member state governments. concerned countries. Between these Politician He says, for example, that Giorgi would have come across a book critical of Qatar, and would therefore have proceeded to “destroy” all copies of that book in the European Parliament.

It is unclear how effective the efforts of Panzeri, Giorgi and their “soldiers” have been in improving the status and image of Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania in the European Parliament, and it is also uncertain whether all the results reported in the documents are actually due to their calculations. they. The table includes decisions and decisions on which they did not have a significant impact. Giorgi himself II PoliticianDuring his interrogation with the Belgian Federal Police, he admitted that he and Panzeri exploited the complex and somewhat ambiguous functioning of European institutions to amplify their influence in the eyes of the countries that employed them.

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– Read also: How much was parliamentarian Antonio Panzeri?

second Politician Panzeri and Giorgi’s main goal in their careers as lobbyists was to ensure that goals were achieved an agreement This would have eliminated the need to obtain an entry visa to enter European Union countries from Qatar, for short periods. A few days before Panzeri and Giorgi were arrested, the agreement was approved by the Parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.. All that was missing for final approval was a final vote in Parliament, which was suspended immediately after the arrest of Panzri and Giorgi.

Politician He writes that he saw other documents in which Panzeri, before suspending the vote, proposed to Qatari officials “two action plans” indicating who they should contact and whom they should pressure to ensure the agreement was achieved: In particular, it was necessary to avoid creating opposition from European parliamentarians. Who criticized Qatar for its treatment of migrant workers and journalists. It is not clear whether Qatar actually exerted pressure on these European parliamentarians, and if so what kind of pressure did it exert?

In the table, Giorgi had written that he had “neutralized” six parliamentary resolutions condemning Qatar between June 2021 and November 2022, despite the fact that Parliament approved a resolution of this type on November 24, 2022. Again, it is not clear whether Was and how. Giorgi successfully avoided agreeing to those proposals: either by exercising legitimate influence as a lobby group, or by promising money or other benefits to the parliamentarians concerned.

Another series of actions described in the document relate to Panzeri and Giorgi’s efforts to “change the narrative” within the European Parliament regarding the FIFA World Cup held in Qatar in 2022: the country has been accused of exploiting many migrant workers. Due to the rapid construction of the structures necessary to host the event, thousands of people died due to the harsh working conditions they were exposed to. In February 2020, for example, the two allegedly prepared detailed memos for Qatar’s foreign minister, who was due to address the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. For this occasion, they were also going to ensure that some MPs were present to “ask specific questions” to the Minister.

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Panzeri and Giorgi would also work hard to discredit some of the political enemies of the countries in which they worked. At the beginning of 2021, for example, the two had tried and failed to prevent the appointment of Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, an important official in the United Arab Emirates police, as head of Interpol, the international organization with which the forces deal. Police in almost every country in the world. Relations between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been very tense for a long time, and they have not had official diplomatic relations since 2017, then they resumed in 2021.

– Read also: Qatar is not just trying with the European Parliament

Documents he read Politician They also mention Morocco and Mauritania, two other countries that would have hired Panzeri and Giorgi as lobbyists to look after their interests within European institutions.

It appears from the table that Panzeri and Giorgi contributed to approving a parliamentary resolution against Algeria, which, in their opinion, would have been indirectly in favor of Morocco. They also took credit for persuading Parliament to approve a “more moderate text” of a resolution criticizing Morocco over its handling of the 2021 migration crisis. Instead, Mauritania’s efforts will focus on improving its public image: both sides claim they blocked, for example, a human rights activist Human: The Mauritanian government refuses to receive the Sakharov Prize for the Protection of Freedom of Thought, the most important recognition of human rights in Europe.

– Read also: Mauritania’s little-revealed role in Qatargate

An anonymous person close to Giorgi’s lawyer said Politician That the document was actually intended to “boost” Panzeri’s image in the eyes of foreign employers and that it would not be “credible” as evidence of influence activity.

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