A secretly recorded conversation, to which Euronews has had access, shows a leading police investigator in the so-called Qatargate probe questioning the integrity of both the repentant and the judges.
Suspect Francesco Giorgi – the partner of socialist MEP Eva Kaili, also under investigation in the sprawling graft probe – secretly recorded a conversation with senior Belgian policeman Ceferino Alvarez Rodriguez when he visited Giorgi’s apartment in May last year.
In the recording, which Euronews has obtained, Alvarez Rodriguez accuses former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the suspected ringleader who has struck a deal with Belgian authorities to reveal all about the corruption case, of lying.
“We don’t believe anything he says,” a transcript of the conversation reads. “We know very well that he is fooling us, we know it. But it’s all going to blow up.”
“When it will blow, it will blow.”
The conversation in French, recorded on Giorgi’s phone, also shows Alvarez Rodriguez complaining about politically-appointed judges.
“I have no trust in the judiciary because justice is pulled by strings, by politicians,” he is reported to have said.
“We cannot trust the judiciary,” he added.
Alvarez Rodriguez worked hand-in-hand with the former judge on the case, Michel Claise, who was forced to step down last June following allegations he was not impartial.
It was revealed that Claise’s son was a business partner to the son of Maria Arena, another socialist MEP embroiled in the scandal but who has not been formally charged, in a medicinal cannabis company.
According to the prosecutor’s office, Claise stepped down “as a matter of caution,” and to “maintain the necessary separation between private and family life and professional responsibilities.”
The recorded conversation, which Giorgi’s legal team has asked to be considered as fresh legal evidence in the case, adds further turmoil to efforts to prosecute the suspects. The numerous debacles in the Belgian investigation have led many to brand the case as ‘Belgium-gate’.
The conversation between Giorgi and Alvarez Rodriguez allegedly took place on May 3 last year, when the investigator stopped by to return Giorgi’s phone, which had been seized during his hearing just days earlier on April 27.
During the visit, Giorgi complained about his laptop, which included confidential notes he drafted with his lawyer, being confiscated by police officers during a search warranted by judge Claise while Giorgi was attending his court hearing on April 27, saying it violated his right to defence.
Responding to Giorgi’s complaints, investigator Alvarez Rodriguez reportedly repeated twice, “that’s the game.”
According to the transcript, the investigator also claims it’s “normal” for his team to have access to Giorgi’s confidential notes, as their content proves that Giorgi has also gained access to their own investigative files.
“You adapt your speech to what is in the file,” the investigator reportedly told Giorgi. “That’s why we don’t put everything in. We’re not idiots, so we know you’re lying to us.”
In a statement, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office acknowledged the comments attributed to the police officer.
In relation to Panzeri, it said that its investigation involves “verifying the veracity of the statements made by the repentant,” to check whether they comply with the legal requirements for obtaining the repentant status.
The statement adds that “a procedure is currently pending before an independent body (…) to examine the legality of a certain number of investigative acts carried out.”
The transcript of the conversation is one of three files Giorgi’s lawyers have presented to be considered as new evidence in the investigation, according to a document seen by Euronews. They also include the original recording, in video format, as well as a subtitled video prepared by Giorgi.
The corruption scandal saw Giorgi, his partner Kaili and Panzeri accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of euros from Qatari and Moroccan officials in exchange for influencing the decisions of the European Parliament. Both countries have vehemently the allegations.
The case has sent shockwaves across Brussels and forced the European Parliament to clamp down on lax rules on staff conduct.
While both Panzeri and Giorgi have admitted wrongdoing, Kaili continues to defend her innocence.
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