Marie Arena was offered (without her knowledge?) a luxurious stay in Morocco

Tags : Qatargate, European Parliament, corruption, bribery, Luca Visentini, Antonio Panzeri, Eva Kaili, Francesco Giorgi,

Panzeri the repentant was, according to his own confession, generous with the money of his Moroccan friends: one of them would have offered him, in 2015, a stay with Marie Arena at La Mamounia, a mythical palace in Marrakech.

By Joel Matriche and Louis Colart

It was a bad day: by springing on Antonio Panzeri and Francesco Giorgi on 9 December last, the agents of the Belgian federal judicial police not only thwarted an operation of interference such as the European Parliament had never known, they also destroyed in the former MEP and his collaborator any hope of a Christmas on the balcony. “Atmoun was looking for a hotel for us in Marrakech, it’s a very well-known hotel,” Giorgi confessed to investigators just days after his arrest. Then: “I can confirm that everything was taken care of either by Atmoun or by someone from Morocco. Everything was offered. »

This stay by invitation in December 2022 at La Mamounia – one of the most renowned five-star hotels in North Africa – would not have been a first for Panzeri: in 2017 or 2018, he recalled a few weeks in front of the police who auditioned him, it was in the company of Mr. Giorgi and his partner, the Greek MEP Eva Kaili, that he rested there for a week. At the expense of the Moroccan government or, at the very least, of one of its representatives: Abderrahim Atmoun, ambassador of the Cherifian kingdom in Poland and alleged corrupter of several members of the European Parliament. “These trips were totally (excluding extras) organized and paid for by Mr. Atmoun,” said Antonio Panzeri during his interrogation. “He texted us the flight numbers. We had nothing to do.

Stay for two in a palace

But long before that, it was Marie Arena who was entitled to a guided tour of the Marrakech palace in the company of her colleague Antonio Panzeri: “In 2015, there was a trip with Marie Arena. She accompanied me for two or three days to La Mamounia, where we met the Sahrawi community. “I think Marie Arena thinks it was me who invited her but, in reality, everything was taken care of by Atmoun”, further specifies the former Italian MEP in this report of the hearing that were able to consult Le Soir and La Repubblica. He does not specify at this time whether his friend paid the bill with his own funds or with those of the Moroccan state.

However, it appears from diplomatic cables quoted by Le Soir in mid-January that in 2011, Rabat had identified the European parliamentarian as a key man who could « be a strong ally or a formidable adversary », a political interlocutor who was better to have as a friend than as an enemy. Two years later, in another confidential note summarizing the actions to be carried out in order to promote the « interests of Morocco within the European Parliament in 2013 », Panzeri was described as a « friend of Morocco ».

Asked by Le Soir about this Moroccan excursion in 2015, Marie Arena did not respond. In her previous explanations, she had not hidden « a professional friendship » forged with the neo-repentant during the previous European legislature. Friendship which therefore grows today from this trip offered – perhaps unwittingly – by a Moroccan official.

“The money and the trips were not taken care of by Atmoun but by a Moroccan agency”, continues Antonio Panzeri a little further in his hearing, without however specifying which trips and to which period he refers. “I discovered it because my hotel key was in a pocket with the name of the reservation. It was the DGED. That’s when I understood. » DGED, four initials for General Directorate of Studies and Documentation, the Moroccan external secret services. According to a declassified note from State Security submitted to the judicial investigation, Abderrahim Atmoun received his orders in this interference operation from a secret agent of the DGED, a certain Mohamed B. A well-prepared meeting.

Invited on January 17 on the RTBF set, just after the signing of the repentance memorandum, one of Panzeri’s lawyers spoke out: « One of the reasons why Mr. Panzeri wanted to speak, it’s because he knows he betrayed some people’s trust and Marie Arena is one of them. (…) He believes that he is a very righteous person, who should not have been accused as is the case here. He will quote her name to say that she has absolutely nothing to do and that he would never have dared to offer her anything, ”promised Me Laurent Kennes.

In audition, Antonio Panzeri kept this promise. On several occasions, as for this 2015 stay in Marrakech, he cleared the former minister-president of the French Community. « I want to clarify that it has nothing to do with these stories, » he says, for example, referring to the hidden deal with Qatar.

However, investigators keep coming across the identity of the Montoise. The attitude of the resigning president of the human rights sub-committee around the hearing of the Minister of Labor of Qatar, Dr Ali bin Samikh Al Marri on November 14, 2022, is the perfect illustration of this. During one of his interrogations, Francesco Giorgi claimed to have met, in the company of Mr. Panzeri, a Qatari delegation on October 10, 2022 at the Wiltcher’s hotel in order to « prepare the minister for this scheduled hearing in Parliament ». Seized by investigators, video surveillance images attest to this meeting.

Taking advantage of his visit to Brussels, Minister Al Marri discussed the next day, October 11, with official representatives of the EU: one of the vice-presidents of the Commission, a German MEP as well as Marie Arena, president of the sub-committee human rights. Two weeks later, to follow up on this meeting with her Qatari interlocutor, Ms. Arena officially invites her to take part in the meeting which will be organized on November 14 in Parliament in order, in particular, to discuss the rights of foreign workers in Qatar. Logical question: where did the idea come from to audition the Minister of Labor of Qatar on 14 November in Parliament? How could Dr. Al Marri be « prepared » on October 10 for a debate to which he was not yet formally invited? Also to this question.

What still appears, in the light of telephone tapping carried out on Antonio Panzeri’s device, is that Marie Arena was not unaware that there was contact between the Qatari and his friend Antonio. On November 14, shortly after the end of this famous session in the human rights subcommittee, Marie Arena called the Italian. In this telephone interception which Le Soir has already reported, the second compliments the first for her intervention and announces to her that the minister (Mr. Al-Marri) is just as satisfied. La Montoise does not seem surprised by this connection between her friend and the Qatari authorities. To this curious telephone exchange, Ms. Arena did not wish to provide further details.

While it does not appear in the hearings and testimonies to which Le Soir had access that the socialist could, unlike some of her colleagues, have been remunerated by her friend Antonio Panzeri or by a foreign intermediary, her promiscuity with the ex-elected Milanese make her more than ever appear as the one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.

“I found him a lawyer”
By Louis Colart and Joël Matriche
On December 9, 2022, when federal agents invaded apartments and offices in Brussels in order to carry out around fifteen searches and a handful of arrests, there was panic. Unable to reach her companion Francesco Giorgi, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, first tried her luck with Antonio Panzeri. Who does not pick up more since he, too, was brought in for questioning. « I then tried to join Marc Tarabella, then Marie Arena », says Ms. Kaili again during one of her auditions. “They told me they didn’t know why Panzeri wasn’t responding. »

At the beginning of the afternoon, everyone knows that the trade unionist Luca Visentini, Francesco Giorgi, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca and Antonio Panzeri were arrested, in the light of the revelations of Le Soir and Knack. The fate of the latter worries M., one of his former assistants, as much as Marie Arena.

– “Did you look for me? asks, picking up, the Belgian MEP to her interlocutor.

– “Yes, I looked for you to say that in my opinion, he has been arrested. So you have to find him a lawyer. »

– « I have already sent, I have already sent. It’s already done. –

“Ah… OK”, reassures Mr.

It is therefore, according to the content of this police listening, Marie Arena who urgently appointed a lawyer to represent her friend Antonio Panzeri. Was it already Mes Kennes and Uyttendaele? Contacted by Le Soir, neither the MEP nor the lawyers wanted to provide any details.

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