Two MEPs recognize undeclared trips to Qatar

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella did not declare a trip paid for by Qatar, his lawyer admitted on Sunday, a few days after his colleague Marie Arena reported a similar “oversight” concerning a stay in the emirate, in full scandal of alleged corruption in the European Parliament.

After indicting four people for alleged corruption for the benefit of Qatar, the Belgian judicial authorities requested the lifting of immunity for Marc Tarabella, close to Pier-Antonio Panzeri, a former Italian MEP at the heart of the case, in whom 600,000 euros in cash were seized.

Mr. Tarabella, whose home had also been searched, denies any involvement, but the elected socialist admits having made a trip in February 2020 paid for by Qatar without declaring it to Parliament as he had the obligation.

“He was invited (…) for a congress. It was the organization that paid,” said his lawyer Maxim Töller on the Belgian channel RTL. “He has not yet declared it (…). He then left for Ghana, then there was the Covid (…). His collaborator reminds him to do so, but the deadline has passed”, he explained, pointing to “the reality on the ground”.

“He will regularize things (…). There is nothing illegal in having a trip paid for by an organization”, insisted the lawyer, stressing that the elected official “went to see the construction of the stadiums and asked to meet workers”.

– “Not a little Italian at the bottom of a trattoria” –

Marc Tarabella had underlined in November in the hemicycle “the positive evolution” of rights in Qatar – in the name of “realpolitik” and as “encouragement”, according to Maxim Töller.

The lawyer also tried to explain his client’s “friendship” with Pier-Antonio Panzeri: “He is not a little Italian at the bottom of a trattoria (…). He was elected three times MEP, (he is) a very respected person (…) It is quite possible that he actually advised (Mr. Tarabella) to say such a thing”, without him “can imagine” that the elected Italian “would have monetized their friendship”.

On Wednesday, the Belgian socialist MEP Marie Arena also admitted having failed to declare a mission to Qatar in May 2022, paid for by the emirate, attributing the “forgetting” to her secretariat and evoking “a rather complicated document to complete”, according to his declarations to the Belgian press.

She resigned in the wake of her presidency of the Human Rights subcommittee of the European Parliament, a position previously held by Pier-Antonio Panzeri and from which Ms. Arena had retired in December.

“This decision was taken in view of the political and media attacks which harm my image” as well as “all the work carried out within the sub-committee”, she explained to the Belga agency, repeating “having nothing to reproach themselves for” and not having been the subject of searches or requests for the waiver of immunity.

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