Marc Tarabella, who was conditionally released from his electronic ankle bracelet on Tuesday, once again claimed his innocence before the press Wednesday and appeared visibly emotional while recounting his story.
Tarabella has been charged with public corruption, money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation for his alleged involvement in the scandal known as “Qatargate”.
On 11 April, the pre-trial judge released Tarabella from pre-trial detention and gave him an electronic ankle bracelet. On Tuesday, he was conditionally released from his bracelet as pre-trial detention was no longer justified, according to the investigating judge on the case. Charges against him remain, however.
Before the press on Wednesday, Tarabella spoke about the case he was dragged into by the man he believed to be his “friend”, former MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri.
Recounting the events, Taraella said he learned about Panzeri being arrested on corruption charges on 9 December 2022. He explained that he was “surprised” and thought it was a “mistake”. “How could a man who had held important positions for 15 years in the European Parliament, a former recognised trade union leader, have been involved in such a case?”, he said.
In Tarabella’s own words: the unthinkable happened on 10 December of last year as police officers, accompanied by the investigating judge and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, searched his home, stressing the “tact and professionalism of the police officers who carried out the search”.
According to him, the search was carried out because of Panzeri “lies”, whom he saw “regularly” and considered a “long-time friend”. Panzeri accused Tarabella of receiving large sums of money (€120,000 to €140,000) in exchange for softening his stance on Qatar.
“I then see my face on the headlines of the TV news,” he explained before bursting into tears. “My name is everywhere.”
Tarabella did not mention his being ousted, both from his political group at the national level (Socialist Party) and then from his European Parliament group (S&D) – dismissals his lawyer described as “unfair” at the time.
The Belgian MEP spoke about his waived immunity, noting that he had voted for it to be lifted and called on his colleagues to do the same. When his immunity was lifted, he was again heard and searched, first in the offices of his municipality and then in those of the European Parliament, where no evidence was found, he added.
Speaking of his time in pre-trial detention, which began on 10 February, Tarabella said it was “horrific”.
Now, the MEP will try to resume his work in the European Parliament, where he will act as a non-attached member since his exclusion, and as Mayor of Anthisnes – a function he had to abandon on 22 April.
On the prospect of being reintegrated to his group, Töller said Tarabella “still feels he belongs to this group. We’ll have to see what they will do. The matter is in their hands”.
Asked about a possible reintegration of Tarabella, as well as that of MEP Andrea Cozzolino and former vice-president of the Assembly Eva Kaili, Iratxe García Perez, president of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, told Politico: “These people aren’t members of our group so I don’t know anything about this and the group will do nothing about this.”
(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)
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