The Brussels Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella’s request to dismiss the investigating judge in the ‘Qatargate affair’ for which the lawmaker has been charged with corruption and money laundering.
Michel Claise will thus continue to lead the investigation into the bribery scandal involving Tarabella, former MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, former vice-president of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, her partner, and Panzeri’s former parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday.
Tarabella – who was accused by Panzeri of having received money and “gifts” from Qatar – requested Claise to be dismissed from investigating the case in mid-February, citing a “legitimate suspicion” of bias.
Tarabella’s lawyer, Maxim Töller, estimates that the judge’s arrest warrant stated that “the public positions of the defendant [Tarabella] were initially unfavourable towards Qatar, and then his positions changed from the moment the suspicious movements of funds were detected,” which, according to Toller is tantamount to giving a clear “opinion on the guilt of Mr Tarabella in this case”.
The lawsuit “was deemed admissible but unfounded” by the Court, Belgian media outlet Le Soir reported.
Töller said on Tuesday that he and his client remain “convinced that questions could be raised about the impartiality of the investigating judge and that there was a real risk of the presumption of innocence being violated”.
“If these proceedings have led to an impartial investigation being conducted now, they will not have been in vain,” Töller added.
(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)