Two 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.
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 elsewhere.
Both Qatar and Morocco have strenuously rejected allegations that they sought to gain influence over MEPs. However, prosecutors said Mr Panzeri had admitted “criminal responsibility”.
Mr 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 Mr Cozzolino’s.
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, making his way through a scrum of reporters as he headed into the chamber. Afterwards he told me he had voted to waive his immunity “because I want to speak with the judge and the investigators”.
“Of course I deny any wrong.” Asked if had ever taken money to influence proceedings in the European Parliament he said: “Never in my life!”