Belgian judges released Italian MEP and Qatargate suspect Andrea Cozzolino from house arrest under certain conditions on Wednesday, a prosecution spokesperson confirmed.
The Socialist MEP is a key suspect in the European Parliament’s cash-for-influence scandal known as Qatargate, and is facing charges of corruption, criminal organization and money laundering. Belgian prosecutors are investigating whether he accepted bribes from Morocco in exchange for favoring the country’s interests in Brussels, but he denies any wrongdoing.
Cozzolino was released from house arrest on the understanding he should give a one-week notice for any travel and should not make contact with other suspects, his lawyer Vincenzo Domenico Ferraro told POLITICO.
Cozzolino’s release was the first major decision by Aurélie Dejaiffe, the Belgian judge who took over the European Parliament corruption probe after her predecessor Michel Claise stepped down on Monday amid allegations of a conflict of interest.
She conducted a five-hour interrogation of Cozzolino on Wednesday, his lawyers said.
In a surprise move, Cozzolino traveled from Italy to Brussels on Monday and was interrogated by Claise only hours before he stepped down from the investigation.
“He voluntarily presented himself to the investigators of the Federal Judicial Police, who were waiting for him at the airport,” the Belgian prosecutors wrote in a note.
Belgian authorities held their first interrogation of Cozzolino months after issuing a European arrest warrant in February.
Officials in Naples put off a decision on whether to hand over the MEP five times, calling on their Belgian colleagues to send clarifications on the state of Belgian prisons and on why they issued a European arrest warrant against him in February.
Following Wednesday’s decision, Cozzolino will be able to rejoin the other two MEPs involved in the probe — Belgium’s Marc Tarabella and Greece’s Eva Kaili — in the European Parliament.