Socialist former MEP Marie Arena keeps being connected with Qatargate. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


‘Police report connects Marie Arena to Qatargate,’ claims news outlet


Belgian media has alleged that Socialist MEP Marie Arena was a central character in the “Qatargate” scandal.

On July 1, news outlet Sudinfo claimed a police report it had seen indicated she was a key player in the European Parliament cash-for-influence scandal.

Apparently backing up previous stories, the police report was said to have stated Arena was allegedly in close contact with many involved in the case. They included suspects Italian former MEP Antonio Panzeri and Moroccan Abderrahim Atmoun, according to Sudinfo.

Panzeri was the alleged ringleader of the corruption circle. He took a plea-bargain deal in January 2023 with the Belgian police. Atmoun was Morocco’s ambassador to Poland and is suspected of being a spy.

Sudinfo reported that Atmoun invited Arena and Panzeri to Marrakech for dinner in a restaurant there in January 2022.

The news outlet claimed Arena had told Atmoun that her son would like to go to Morocco and that “Uncle Atmoun” then offered to organise that for him “whenever he wants, he can call me directly”.

Some time later, Arena had hoped to attend a conference in Niger but the European Parliament did not allow her to go, according to Sudinfo. She wanted to organise it through the organisations Fight Impunity, founded by Panzeri and No Peace Without Justice, which shared the office address on Rue Ducale with Fight Impunity and was also named in Qatargate but denied any wrongdoing.

Belgian investigators are said to believe that Panzeri did manage Arena’s schedule.

Giuseppe Meroni (Panzeri’s former parliamentary assistant) claimed Arena was part of a “quadrumvirate” with Italian MEPs Andrea Cozzolino, Alessandra Moretti and Belgian Marc Tarabella. It was a grouping “that struck with precision, attention and effectiveness” regarding Qatar, Meroni alleged.

All bar Arena have been accused of corruption in the Qatargate inquiry and have all denied the allegations.

In May 2022, Arena is said to have visited Qatar, and issued an official communication regarding human rights issues. She reportedly also resolved “another matter”.

Belgian investigators reportedly believe Panzeri received a Rolex watch from a Qatari minister, a “closed package” and a necklace with a rose. All these gifts were, according to the investigators, given to Arena, who also received tickets for the football World Cup, for her son, they alleged.

The investigators have concluded that “Marie Arena is involved in calculating remunerations from Qatar for the work done by Panzeri and Giorgi in their favour”, Sudinfo reported.

“Marie Arena seems to perform tasks and projects directly on behalf of the Qatari labour minister, who is concerned about the progress of tasks and projects entrusted to Marie Arena with Panzeri and Giorgi.”

At one point, Giorgi is said to have been recorded exclaiming “wow” (la vache!) after hearing of the money she had allegedly received.

She was allegedly “deeply trusted” by Panzeri and was described as “flexible”. Panzeri reportedly claimed she helped him to “collect” amounts of cash.

Sudinfo said it contacted Arena’s lawyers for comment but they did not want to react.

Brussels Signal reached out to Arena via her parliamentary e-mail but at the time of writing had not received a reply.

Arena has always maintained she is innocent and denies all allegations.

Update: In a late reaction to Brussels Signal, Marie Arena said she lodged a complaint against Sudinfo Council for Journalistic Ethics for the article.

“As for the rest, I have answered all the questions put to me by the courts concerning this affair, for which I would remind you that I have not been charged, and I would also remind you that there has been no question of my parliamentary immunity being lifted.”

Update 2: The public prosecutor declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.