Morocco denounces ‘media attacks’ as corruption scandal in the European Parliament worsens

Morocco denounces ‘media attacks’ as corruption scandal in the European Parliament worsens

Morocco denounces ‘media attacks’ as corruption scandal in the European Parliament worsens

Morocco has denounced what it calls “repeated media attacks” and “legal harassment” as the kingdom battles mounting allegations suggesting involvement in the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, dubbed QatarGate.

“The association between Morocco and the European Union is an association that faces attack,” Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s foreign minister, said Thursday. “Morocco’s position has always been that it is an association that must be protected by both parties.”

So far, four people have been arrested as a result of the Belgian investigation: Greek MEP Eva Kailihis partner Francesco Giorgi, the former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and the director of the NGO Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.

They are accused of participation in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering. More than 1.5 million euros in cash have been seized in dozens of home and office searches.

The plot thickened even more this week after the Belgian authorities requested the lifting of the immunity of two additional MEPs from the socialist group, Marc Tarabella (Belgium) Andrea Cozzolino (Italy), and whose lawyers have told the media that they will not impede the process and want to be heard.

Although the investigation was initially launched in connection with illicit lobbying by a Persian Gulf country widely identified as Qatar, attention has recently shifted to Morocco and its possible involvement in the cash-for-favour scheme.

According to information obtained by the Belgian daily Le Soir and the Italian daily La Repubblica, Francesco Giorgi has confessed to being part of an “organization” used by both Qatar and Morocco with the aim of influencing EU policy making.

Giorgi tried to exonerate Eva Kaili by accusing Cozzolino, her former boss, and Tarabella of accepting cash through Panzeri management. Kaili’s lawyer has said your client is innocent and feels “betrayed” by Giorgi.

The Belgian prosecutor had previously referred to “large sums of money” and “substantial gifts” as a key element of the corruption scandal.

Qatar has denied any wrongdoing, describing the claims as “baseless” and “grossly misinformed”.

The newspapers also reported that Giorgi, Panzeri and Cozzolino were in direct contact with agents of Morocco’s foreign intelligence agency, known as DGED (Direction Générale des Études et de la Documentation), as well as the Moroccan ambassador to Poland, Abderrahim. Atmoun.

In his capacity as legislator, Cozzolino chaired the European Parliament delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries, including the joint EU-Morocco parliamentary committee.

‘There is no impunity for corruption’

As new twists and turns pile up, the African kingdom sought to counter the allegations.

“The (EU-Morocco) association faces continuous legal harassment. This association faces repeated attacks from the media,” Nasser Bourita said Thursday afternoon.

Bourita spoke in French during a joint press conference with Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, following a bilateral meeting in Rabat.

“This association also faces attacks in the European institutions, particularly in Parliament, through questions directed at Morocco, which are the result of calculations and a desire to harm this association,” he added.

“Morocco will defend its interests. Morocco counts on its partners to defend this association. It is an association of geographical neighbourhood, shared values ​​and converging interests.”

For his part, Borrell said the meeting in Rabat had “obviously” touched on the corruption scandal, among a wide range of political issues, and wished for the “full cooperation” of all people involved.

“We are concerned about these facts that have been reported in the press. They are disturbing and the charges are serious,” Borrell said, also in French.

“The position of the European Union is clear: there can be no impunity for corruption.”

No questions from the media were allowed during their joint speech.

Before traveling to Rabat, Josep Borrell had faced criticism for his trip to Morocco, given the tense political context and the growing number of revelations in the media.

“Morocco is a very important partner country. It is a neighbor to the south,” a Borrell spokesman said on Wednesday, in response to a question from Euronews.

“Let’s not forget: they are complaints at this time, there is no evidence, there is no completed investigation. No one has officially said, from a judicial point of view, that Morocco, as a country, is guilty and that Morocco should be avoided in international contacts.”

The spokesman said it was “appropriate” for Borrell to meet his counterparts “from all over the world” and that the visit to Rabat had been planned “for a long time.”

“We cannot preempt or judge something based on allegations,” the official said, noting that the EU will wait for official confirmation from the Belgian judiciary before making a diplomatic decision.

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