The EU has announced that it will begin the process of stripping two MEPs who have been linked to an ongoing corruption scandal of their parliamentary immunity.
The move, according to Parliamentary President Roberta Metsola, was made in response to a request from Belgian police.
Her claim did not, however, identify the MEPs in question but they could be identified next month following some legal manoeuvres.
The scandal broke out after one MEP and three others were detained on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering last month.
Authorities have not revealed the country running the bribery network, although Qatar has been charged with organising it by multiple EU sources.
The Gulf state, meanwhile, has vehemently refuted all allegations of misbehaviour, calling them unfair and “gravely misinformed.”
Following the police request, Ms. Metsola, who previously stated that the affair demonstrated how “open, free, and democratic societies are under threat,” said she would now begin an “urgent procedure” to remove the parliamentary immunity of the two MEPs.
Officers had contacted her office on December 30, an EU source said.
The request must now be presented to the EU parliament as a whole on January 16 before moving on to the legal affairs committee of the body. Before the full parliament votes to lift the MEPs’ immunity, a report on the allegations will be written.
Ms. Metsola says she wants wants the entire procedure finished by 13 February.
All MEPs enjoy some form of limited immunity, which allows them to do their duties, voice their opinions, and cast votes without worrying about being detained or subjected to political retribution.
The chamber, however, has the option to choose to revoke their immunity during private proceedings. The procedure gives accused MEPs the chance to defend themselves and offer evidence.
The aim of immunity, according to a spokeswoman for the European Parliament named Yasmina Yakimova, is to ensure “that parliament can work,” but she emphasised that it “is not something that permits them to transgress the law more readily.”
Greek MEP Eva Kaili, one of the chamber’s vice presidents, was detained during the raids last month.
The 44-year-old Socialist MEP, who has denied any wrongdoing, has already had her immunity revoked because she was “caught red-handed,” according to reports that say police discovered her in possession of sizable “bags of cash.”
In light of news that €150,000 had been discovered in her Brussels apartment, her lawyer has refuted accusations that she had taken bribes.
Another €600,000, according to sources, was discovered at the residence of one suspect, while €750,000 was discovered in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room.
Along with her partner Francesco Giorgi and an ex-MEP from Italy named Pier Antonio Panzeri, she is still being held in pre-trial custody.
It was revealed at a hearing last month that Belgium’s VSSE state security service had been looking into the charges of corruption for more than a year with the assistance of other EU nations.