European lawmaker Cozzolino charged in EU corruption probe

European lawmaker Cozzolino charged in EU corruption probe

22 June 2023 ( Aljazeera )

European Union lawmaker Andrea Cozzolino has been extradited to Belgium and charged in connection with a cash-for-influence scandal at the European Parliament.

The European parliamentarian for Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party was charged with public corruption, criminal organisation and money laundering, it said, adding he was then released under “certain conditions” pending further inquiries.

The scandal, the biggest to rock EU politics in decades, hinges on suspicions that Qatar and Morocco bribed politicians, parliamentary assistants and non-governmental organisations to influence decision-making in the EU assembly.

Last month, Italy had agreed to extradite him to Belgium. He flew into Belgium on Monday for questioning after being arrested four months ago in Italy on an international warrant.

Cozzolino has denied any wrongdoing. Both Qatar and Morocco deny involvement in corruption.

Qatar says information ‘inaccurate’

The 60-year-old is the third lawmaker to be charged over the alleged scheme.

Eva Kaili, a Greek parliamentarian and one of the European Parliament vice presidents, was among those charged after a series of raids uncovered about 1.5 million euros ($1.59m). She has denied any wrongdoing.

Since the allegation emerged, Qatar has maintained that its government “works through institution-to-institution engagement and operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations”.

Last year, a Qatari official said the investigation relied on “inaccurate” information and could “negatively” impact relations between the Gulf state and Belgium.

Al Jazeera has reached out to Qatari officials for a comment on the extradition and the latest charges.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor said it expects the investigation to be completed by the end of the year.