March 24
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Two members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have had their legal immunity lifted by European lawmakers, following a request by Belgian authorities investigating a corruption scandal that has rocked the European Parliament, BBC News reported.

Italian Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian Marc Tarabella deny wrongdoing.

The Qatargate affair unfolded when a Greek lawmaker and three other suspects were arrested on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering.

One of the suspects then agreed to "tell all" as part of a plea deal.

Pier Antonio Panzeri is alleged to have led a network that took bribes from Qatar and Morocco in return for influencing the European Parliament. Some €1.5m (£1.3m) was recovered in cash in a series of raids in Brussels and Italy.

Qatar has denied allegations that it sought to gain influence over MEPs while Morocco has hit back at "judicial harassment" and "media attacks".

However, prosecutors have said Panzeri has admitted "criminal responsibility".

Tarabella's home was raided last month when Belgian police detained the four suspects. Prosecutors then asked the parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution as well as Cozzolino's. Both men were members of the parliament's centre-left Socialists and Democrats grouping.

The votes happened with little ceremony in a matter of seconds when lawmakers began a session of the European Parliament on Thursday morning. MEPs simply raised their hands as the details were read out.

Marc Tarabella attended the vote himself. Afterwards he said he had voted to waive his immunity in order to "be able to respond to the investigators' questions and help authorities shed light on this affair."

According to the parliament report on Tarabella, he is suspected by investigators of backing "certain positions within the European Parliament in favor of a third country in return for cash payments" for two years. Testimony against him suggests several payments totaling €120,00-€140,000, the report adds.

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