Qatargate – Rabat behind the Qatar case. Three Italians paid by 007

BrusselsMorning

BY ANTONIO MASSARI AND GIUSEPPE PIPITONE -Translated from ilfattoquotidiano.it. It’s not just a story of bribes paid to speak well of the World Cup in Qatar. The investigation that is shaking Brussels is something much bigger. A spy story that seems to come from the pen of John le Carré. But that instead arises from an operation of the “Vsse“, the secret service of Belgium: it has existed since 1830 and is the oldest intelligence agency after that of the Vatican. It was the 007 of Brussels, in collaboration with those of 5 other European countries, who discovered the existence of a network that aimed to interfere in the decision-making processes of the highest EU institution, corrupting politicians in key posts. And that he was headed by a cell of secret agents from Morocco. Newspapers have dubbed it “Qatargate,” but the Persian Gulf Emirate isn’t the only country that has ended up at the center of operations. On the contrary: in the history of the “Eurobribes” the role of Doha could even be secondary.

The most accredited rumor is that the tip came from the “spies” of the United Arab Emirates. What is certain is that Brusselsintelligence has focused its attention above all on the “DGED“, the Direction générale des Études et de la Documentation, that is, the central espionage and counter-espionage abroad of the Maghreb State. In Brussels, the 007 of Rabat could count on the support of compatriots accredited as diplomats. Like Abderrahim Atmoun, Moroccan ambassador to Poland. To suffer the influences of the Moroccans was above all the parliamentary group of the Socialists and Democrats, thanks to the work of the three Italians. Two have already ended up in prison: they are the former PD deputy, Pier Antonio Panzeri, and his former collaborator Francesco Giorgi, companion of the now former vice-president of the Eurochamber Eva Kaili. The third, however, is Andrea Cozzolino, a Dem parliamentarian, who until now has not even been questioned by the federal prosecutor in Brussels. Then there are some MEPs – all socialists – who for the investigators were close to the three Italians. The only one directly involved in the investigation is Kaili, but investigators have also directed their interest to other politicians against whom there is no formal charge.

This is Marie Arena, a loyalist of Panzeri, who replaced him at the head of the subcommittee on Human Rights. But also of Alessandra Moretti, who has already clarified that she has “never participated in initiatives organized by Panzeri’s NGO”. Brando Benifei, on the other hand, explains that he “often discussed” issues related to Morocco in the last legislature, given that he was and is a member of the Intergroup for the rights of the Saharawipeople. “In our group – he says to Il Fatto – there were very diversified positions, all legitimate, mine was certainly less close to the Moroccan vision being in favor of the Saharawi cause”.

It is by investigating the 007 of Rabat that the Belgian intelligence comes across Cozzolino, Panzeri and Giorgi: they all had relations with Atmoun and in some cases even with the heads of the Moroccan services. The men of the “Vsse” focused their attention on some meetings in Brusselswith the Moroccan ambassador to Poland, who would also receive them in Warsaw. But not only: the 007 have also investigated trips that would have been made by Cozzolinoand Panzeri in Morocco, on plane tickets that would have been paid even by the secret services of Rabat, on meetings between Italians and first-level Maghreb politicians. Those who investigate outline a real agreement signed with the Moroccan services to interfere in favor of the North African state within the European Parliament, in exchange for money.

Il Fatto asked Cozzolino to clarify his relations with Morocco, but as we write we have not received a response. Then, at a certain point, Qatar appears in this story and the operation of the Belgian services comes alive: last July the agents enter Panzeri’s house. It is a top secret search: the 007 discover hundreds of thousands of euros in cash. They decide at that point that the strand on Qatar’s bribes must be partially declassified and the ball is in the federal prosecutor’s court. Who proceeds to interrogations, arrests and searches. That’s why when the Anti-Corruption men entered Panzeri’s house last Friday, they were not at all surprised by the 700,000 euros in cash. Now investigators led by investigating judge Michel Claise want to understand what all this cash was for. One of the hypotheses is that there could be a real “payroll” composed of MEPs at the service of Qatar. But also of Morocco. Except that the strand that leads to Rabat is still largely top secret. A story made of spies, international tip-offs and accusations to be proven. Which, however, could strike at the heart of the highest levels of EU politics.

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