Challenges and Controversies Surrounding the ‘Qatargate’ Case

More than a year after the Brussels police operation exposed the ‘Qatargate’ scandal, the case’s future before the courts seems uncertain. Some sources even suggest a potential impasse leading to dropped prosecution.

The question of the trial’s occurrence is openly discussed in legal circles now, as Belgian authorities made significant errors and lacked clarity. Leaks and public statements by involved parties, including Eva Kaili, have increased recently, indicating nervousness among them.

Federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw said in September 2023: “I’ve been a federal prosecutor for almost ten years and I’ve never seen so much pressure on a case. There are leaks everywhere, there are foreign judges who contact us and sometimes want to interfere in the investigation, and there is an outburst against the previous investigator and his family. To me, this is disgusting”. [..]

Brussels is concerned about parliamentary immunity, particularly regarding the legality of the investigation involving Eva Kaili. Her lawyers, Sven Mary and Christophe Marchand, argue that her immunity was violated, rendering the prosecution inadmissible. They claim the case began five months before the December 2022 searches, as stated in the prosecutor’s indictment urging an investigation.

Belgian investigators, alerted by a “foreign agency,” were already probing a “criminal organization” with ties to the European Parliament. In October 2023, La Libre Belgique disclosed another discreet investigation report. It focused on a group working on the Israeli spyware Pegasus, capable of targeting all smartphones for certain states. Several MPs’ activities were examined without their immunity being lifted.

According to a judicial source, the Prosecutor’s Office has launched a counter-attack, disputing the idea of wrongdoing. Now, there’s a suggestion that “Qatargate” could become “Belgiumgate,” undermining the entire process. This is the stance of Eva Kaili, as reported on December 9, 2023, in the Belgian newspaper Sudinfo. “In violation of my immunity, I was under surveillance by the secret services and the police,” she explained.

Europe will await the judicial outcome of the case until May and the next session of the Brussels court. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has even requested a review of all actions taken since the beginning of the investigation. Meanwhile, the investigator is expected to continue her investigations. Additionally, Kaili’s defenders aim to shed light on the regime of penance granted to Mr. Panzeri in exchange for his confession: Was it truly complete as required by law, or were there conditions to protect certain third parties?

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