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Qatargate: Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino arrested, fights extradition to Belgium

Qatargate: Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino arrested, fights extradition to Belgium

The lawmaker was detained in Naples at the request of the Belgian authorities.
Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino was arrested on Friday night in the probe connected to alleged corruption in the European Parliament, his lawyer confirmed to POLITICO. He’s back home now.

“Our client was arrested yesterday based on a European arrest warrant issued by investigative judge [Michel] Claise while he was at the hospital where he was taken care of for heart problems,” his lawyer Dimitri De Béco said in a statement shared with POLITICO, confirming earlier reports by ANSA and Reuters.

Cozzolino is now back home, De Béco added, but is, according to ANSA, under house arrest. He has opposed his extradition to Belgium, due to the Belgian justice “way of proceeding,” the statement says. Cozzolino’s lawyers team claimed to have written multiple times to the judge to be heard since December 21, but never got a response.

The extradition hearing of Cozzolino will take place on Tuesday morning, ANSA reports.

The arrest happened at the behest of the Belgian authorities, who began an operation early Friday morning with the detention of Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella. Both Cozzolino and Tarabella saw their immunity waived in a plenary session last Thursday, paving the way for Belgian investigators to detain them.

The Belgian police also conducted new raids on Friday, connected to both Cozzolino and Tarabella.

Earlier Friday, Belgian police searched Cozzolino’s house in Brussels, and sealed, but not searched, his office in the European Parliament, the Belgian prosecutor’s spokesperson confirmed. Also, a safe deposit box of Tarabella’s at a bank in Liège was searched, as well as multiple offices in the Walloon town of Anthisnes, where Tarabella is still mayor, the prosecutor said in a press release.

According to parliamentary reports, potential violations of Belgian law by Tarabella and Cozzolino could include corruption, participation in a criminal organization and money laundering. However, in its communication on Friday, the prosecutor’s services mentioned only corruption and money laundering.

Late last week, the Belgian investigative judge leading the case released from jail one of the four original detainees in the case, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca — secretary-general of No Peace Without Justice, one of the nongovernmental organizations linked to the Qatargate corruption scandal.

Three other suspects — former European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili, her partner Francesco Giorgi and former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri — are still in jail. In January, Panzeri struck a deal to cooperate with the investigators.

Both Tarabella and Cozzolino deny any wrongdoing.

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