The Qatargate scandal, which wreaked havoc on European politics, still gave birth to controversies. Initially, an investigation into tax evasion was later transformed into a corruption scandal. Antonio Panzeri’s arrest in 2022, where he confessed to lobbying for Gulf countries. This development triggered the case from tax evasion to corruption. Panzeri’s also faced financial improprieties dating back to 2016. With the absence of evidence and the non-prosecution of alleged corruptors, the investigation was flawed and flopped from the beginning.
The wiretaps of involved MEPs only came to the public for a year. It was revealed after the resignation of investigating judge Michel Cliase. He was also a Close associate of the prime suspect in the investigation, Maria Arnea. As more developments come to light, there are doubts about its credibility and motives.
The delayed release of a wiretap of Arena shows Cliase’s association with Arena benefitted her in terms of protection. The conflict of interest was apparent then, so the Belgian authorities didn’t remove the judge before the revelations. Further, the investigation’s integrity is compromised by a close business relationship between Claise’s son and Arena’s son. They were involved in a cannabis business.
Moreover, the intercepted conversation between Antonio Panzeri and Arena pointed to financial dealings. The wiretaps exposed Arena’s alleged funding from Qatar. Arena also promoted positive information about Qatar’s workers’ rights. A tapped report alleges Panzeri gifted Arena a Rolex, potentially donated by Qatar’s Foreign Minister. With these shocking leaks, the Arena remained in Parliament while Eva Kaili faced a harsh fate, including imprisonment, expulsion, and distancing from family and party.
Panzeri’s confession of lobbying completely shifted focus. However, the case had to move to European prosection, but the Belgian prosection system was more interested in keeping the matter in hand. Thus, this scandal is no longer Qatargate but a Belgian gate.
Despite corruption claims, MEPs have the right to engage in paid activities, provided they declare them. The complexities in the case make it more challenging to investigate. Therefore, further investigations are needed to get to the bottom of this case. Further, these revelations raise concerns about the credibility of the entire inquiry,