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PM Meloni slams colleagues for referring to EU graft scandal as an ‘Italian job’

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday slammed colleagues for characterising the Qatargate graft scandal at the European Parliament as an “Italian job,” a reference to the 1969 heist film, calling the reference “a stain on our nation”. 

Earlier this month, Belgian authorities charged four people linked to the European Parliament on allegations that World Cup host Qatar lavished them with cash and gifts to influence decision-making in Strasbourg. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

The suspects in the scandal now known as “Qatargate” are Greek EU lawmaker Eva Kaili; Pier Antonio Panzeri, an Italian former Socialist EU lawmaker; Panzeri’s former assistant, EU assembly staffer and Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi; and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the Italian secretary-general of a human rights NGO.

“One thing has made me very annoyed: many international colleagues define these facts with the phrase ‘Italian job‘ as if it was a stain on our nation,” Meloni was quoted as saying by the Italian media outlet Ansa

“The affair does not concern only Italians, but also Belgians, Greeks and people from other nations. If anything, it is a party issue – a ‘Socialist job’,” she said, noting that some of those charged were members of Socialist parties.

All four suspects remain in pre-trial detention. Giorgi admitted in mid-December to taking bribes but protested Kaili’s innocence. 

‘Suitcases full of cash’

The corruption scandal, in which some suspects were found with suitcases full of cash, is like something out of crime drama television series “Narcos,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said last Friday

“What we saw were scenes worthy of Netflix – of ‘Narcos’,” Gentiloni said in an interview with Italian RAI public radio, calling the scandal “shameful” and damaging to the reputation of EU institutions.

“We need to react, we need to let the Belgian judiciary do its work, and we need to react perhaps with even more effective rules of transparency, especially in the European Parliament,” he said.

Investigators searched 19 homes and the offices of the European Parliament in raids on December 9 to 12. A source close to the investigation said €1.5 million ($1.59 million) was seized in the raids.

This included €600,000 in cash at the home of a suspect, several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room and €150,000 in an apartment belonging to a European Parliament member.

Source: France24