BRUSSELS – The recorded testimonies of Pier Antonio Panzeri to Belgian authorities have shed light on the activities of the network involved in the Qatargate scandal and the role played by Eva Kaili. These documents have been brought to the attention of Deutsche Welle.
As per Panzeri’s statements to Belgian prosecutors, made as part of an agreement to secure a reduced sentence, Qatar began to expand its network of influence in EU institutions in late 2017. After meetings in early 2018 with the Minister of Labor of the Gulf state, Ali bin Samikh Al-Marri, Qatar agreed to provide €1 million annually to Kaili and her partner during the period from 2018-2019.
When he failed to get re-elected in 2019, the former Italian MEP established the NGO “Fight Impunity” to continue his pro-Qatar activities. According to the text of his testimony, this is when Eva Kaili became involved. Panzeri claimed that Kaili received €250,000 from Qatar to finance her re-election campaign to the European Parliament.
Although all details about the transfer of the money are not known, as noted by DW, Panzeri claimed that a significant portion of the funds from Qatar reached them through a “Turkish businessman and his lawyer in London.” Panzeri also claimed that another MEP from his country received cash and that he met with interlocutors involved in the corruption scheme.
From the testimony, it is revealed that the corruption scandal originated from Morocco, not Qatar. Panzeri stated that his relationship with the Moroccan Ambassador to Poland, Abderrahim Atmoun, began in 2012 and that Atmoun gave him €50,000 in 2014 for a pre-election rally in Milan. According to the documents, Atmoun also paid for the luxury trips of Kaili, her partner Francesco Giorgi, and two other MEPs, Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Maria Arena, to Morocco.
Panzeri claimed that Morocco started sending sacks of cash from 2019 when he and Kaili’s partner agreed to receive €50,000 annually to create a favorable image for the North African country in circles where EU policy is shaped in Brussels.
The former Italian MEP stated that a comparable agreement was made with officials from the government of Mauritania during the same period. Panzeri claimed that this only lasted in 2019, and he and Giorgi received two payments of €50,000 each. While the government of Morocco denied any involvement in the corruption scandal, Mauritania has not responded to a request for comment, according to DW.
Panzeri: “I wasn’t the big boss”
During the six hours of his testimony, at some point Panzeri attempted to shift the blame away from himself, arguing before the Belgian prosecutors that he was not “the big boss.” He also implicated Kaili’s partner and former parliamentary assistant, Giorgi – with whom he shared a cell in a Belgian prison for a period – as the “maestro” who distributed envelopes and sacks of cash to those involved, including himself.
However, Panzeri stated that he personally “approached” the arrested Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella with an initial amount of €20,000 and that Tarabella received a total of €140,000. The former Italian MEP also mentioned that in 2021, he wanted to change the system as he “had already collected so much money that he didn’t know what to do with it.” Sources from his circle told DW that Panzeri’s physical and mental condition is “significantly deteriorating” while he remains in prison.