Catargate: the European corruption case speaks Italian

  • Four of the five initially arrested are Italians

  • Antonio Panzeri, Luca Visentini, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca and Francesco Giorgi

  • They are still trying to clarify a case that can be expanded, other names are being investigated, some of them also Italian

These are days of tension in Brussels since Qatargate, the first major case of corruption in the European political headquarters, was blown up. The facts and the open case are being handled by the Belgian courts, which for months have been secretly investigating the movements that linked an alleged network of gifts and commissions sent from Qatar to launder the image of the Gulf monarchy at a European level in view of the Soccer World Cup now in progress. He also does it, as he publishes le soir on Wednesday afternoon, with the collaboration of five other countries in a case, now judicial, but which He was born into the Belgian Secret Services. But the case resonates especially in Italy because four of the five initially arrested are precisely from the transalpine country. We are talking about Antonio Panzeri, from whom the whole case starts; Francesco Giorgi, partner of the vice president of the European Parliament also investigated, the Greek Eva Kaili; Niccolò Figà Talamanca and Luca Visentini, who was part of the Italian union Uil and today is general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). In the background, the public statements of these characters in which they praised Qatar’s advances in human rights now take on a new meaning.

Money, which amounts to more than a million and a half and that would have been found in the house of Panzieri and Kaili. 600,000 euros found in a suitcase at the home of the now former vice-president of the Greek Parliament, the same amount at Panzieri’s house in Brussels but also in Italy, in the house where the woman and her daughter were, also detained, others were found 17 thousand euros. Shortly after, while Giorgi was testifying during these last hours in Brussels, the Guardia di Finanza went to his home in Abbiategrasso, in Lombardy, to find another 20,000 euros in cash. A total of sixteen houses between both countries registered during the weekend. All the people involved in this case are from the center left, from the European Socialist Party, all now suspended or expelled from their respective European parties and groups and also include two NGOs linked to that environment. Why does this case have an Italian accent?

The investigation starts precisely from an Italian. Pier Antonio Panzeri, former European parliamentarian of the PD and its Article 1 split, where he was three consecutive legislatures and where he was part of the subcommittee for Human Rights. He is also a former trade unionist for the main Italian union Cgil, of which he was a senior leader in Milan before it joined the EU. There, say sources quoted by the Italian press, he was already a man of “with me or against me” and with power. He was arrested along with his wife and his daughter, Silvia, a lawyer who is specializing precisely in European law. They were in Italy, in the house where several thousand more euros were found. Panzieri, indicate the bases of the investigation, would have been the first to have accepted the Qatari tangents and would have dragged the others. When he stopped being re-elected, in 2019, he created an NGO called ‘Fight Impunity’ that dealt with Arab countries, to which he traveled continuously. from that position continued to access institutions freely, although he did not have the same rights that he had as a parliamentarian. Early next week his wife and his daughter will appear before the Brescia Court of Appeal. To avoid extradition to Belgium, they must explain the origin of the 17,000 euros in cash seized at their home.

Francesco Giorgi, 35, Eva Kaili’s partner, and the person through whom Panzeri would have managed to enter certain parliamentary circles. Giorgi was his assistant until 2019, but his career is long in the EU, he arrived in 2009 and is known as “Mister Parliament”, for his beauty, to which many also add great arrogance. He had previously studied Political Science in Milan and had entered the left-wing political world at a very young age. At this time he was an adviser on EU relations with the Maghreb countries for another Italian, Andrea Cazzolino, a member of the PD, who is not under investigation. but what has happened self-suspended in the last hours by an email that he sent to some colleagues asking them to be benevolent with a recent vote on Qatar. Giorgi is collaborating with the investigation.

The other Italian arrested is Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, secretary of the other NGO in the spotlight ‘No Peace Without Justice’close to the Italian radicals and to the historical leader Emma Bonino, who is not involved in the case but who was a founder of the organization in 1993 and who has already announced that she will leave her post. Luca Visentini, was for several years General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, The main body that represents the workers before the EU and since last November it has been the largest international union confederation, Ituc. He is the last Italian who was arrested in the early hours. His union commitment began with Uil, one of the main unions in Italy, in which he was a member and worked since he was young. Just a month ago when he was appointed to an even higher post, many Italian politicians, including PD leader Enrico Letta, congratulated him. He was released in the first few hours and then released after questioning, along with Kaili’s father.

In addition to those arrested, two other Belgian deputies with transalpine origins are being investigated, but the list of Italian surnames could still be expanded. The Qatargate wave reaches Marc Tarabella, Chairman of the parliamentary delegation concerned with relations with the Arabian Peninsula. His profile was striking in European circles after his change from severe censor to champion, although for now he has not been charged. The Italian-Belgian MEP Maria Arena has also been questioned, which would be included in the same circle of Panzeri. The eyes, in addition to Italy, are also on Morocco, where it seems that the investigation would begin to be fixed at this time.

Catargate: the European corruption case speaks Italian