“Operation Marocgate”: Antonio Panzeri, the man through whom the scandal happened

The European Parliament’s resolution condemning Morocco is far from accidental. This is the result of a bad deal with former Italian parliament member Panzeri, currently in custody. Objective: to damage the image of the Kingdom.

30 July 2014, Royal Palace of Rabat. Shoulders slightly tucked into a midnight blue suit and a barely perceptible smile, Pier Antonio Panzeri advances with a step that doesn’t look very assured after King Mohammed VI. On the occasion of the throne festival, the one who was then still an MEP was invited to Morocco to be decorated there. The reason, the royal protocol does not say a word about it and is limited to the reference to his status as an elected official and former chairman of the commission for relations with the Maghreb countries of the European Parliament. But, without even knowing him, one can believe that he is a “friend of Morocco”, since these foreign personalities, especially politicians, who defend positions favorable to the Kingdom, are often cataloged.

And a friend from Morocco, Mr. Panzeri is indeed one, as those who already follow his actions know: at the time he had already publicly supported Moroccan demands for some time, vis-à-vis the Sahara region, and he had even just about four months before, in March 2014, in Dakhla, participated in the Morocco-European Union (EU) parliamentary committee, which means precisely by this fact that we cannot clarify his position regarding Moroccanness and the city itself and the rest. of the southern provinces. But from there to imagine that Mr. Panzeri would have received more in return than the third class wissam that Mohammed VI hangs on his jacket?

Almost mafia-like methods

Central figure of “Marocgate”, as the European media gradually call the corruption affair where services of the Old Continent accuse their Moroccan counterparts of tampering to influence political decision-making at the level of the European Parliament, the man. Italian politician sees that his name is associated with many “gifts” that he would have received from representatives of Morocco. As many have already followed, it all started with the investigation carried out mainly by the Belgian services regarding bribes of the order of several hundred thousand euros that the Greek MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, Éva Kaïlí, by the Belgian police arrested on December 9, 2022, would have been handed over by Qatar to defend its interests in the legislative circuit across the Mediterranean.

One thing leading to another, we finally learn after almost a week of hearings through articles published on December 15 and 16, 2022 in the Belgian daily Le Soir and Italian La Repubblica, that the Gulf emirate itself not only ‘ a large network with almost mafia-like methods originally created by mr. Panzeri was built to make a profit… in Morocco. The media even gives the names of alleged Moroccan intermediaries, including a so-called Moroccan secret service agent. And it is above all the name of Morocco’s ambassador to Poland, Abderrahim Atmoun, that comes up the most: mr. Indeed, Panzeri and he originated from the time he sat in the House of Councilors and was the chairman of the Morocco-EU parliamentary committee. , and as such he also participated in the March 2014 meeting of the said entity in Dakhla. A small anecdote in passing: the very day that mr. Panzeri was decorated by Mohammed VI, a few minutes later before King Mr. Atmoun appeared to receive a second-class wissam in turn.

In any case, the Belgian police did not wait to find Ms. Kaïlí finished hearing Mr. to arrest Panzeri on December 9, 2022 before his wife and daughter two days later, also accused of being corrupted by Morocco, in the past stay, according to La Republicca, at the famous hotel La Mamounia, in the city of Marrakech. Just as on December 15, 2022, MEPs, in this case the members of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) Manu Pineda and Sira Rego, rush to express in the European Parliament resolution on suspicions of corruption by Qatar the fact that it would be “deeply concerned about the allegations that Morocco also tried to influence the delegates” – which is opposed in particular by the right and center MPs, and this party will therefore not appear in the final version adopted .

Dependent campaign

At this time, it seems clear that certain European parties have already investigated a lawsuit against Morocco, even if the investigation has continued: received, on January 5, 2023 in the capital, Rabat, the Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, will speak out in particular in response to the “harassment and the multiple media attacks” which he says target, the Morocco-EU- partnership – which was questioned by the media the day before, on 4 January 2023, the spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Peter Stano, himself recalled that “nobody[vait] officially stated, from a judicial point of view, that Morocco, as a country, [était] guilty”.

And if some tend to taunt a conspiracy of bad quality on the part of the Moroccan authorities when they “people” and “structures disturbed by this Morocco liberating itself, this Morocco strengthening its protagonism, this Morocco without project complex, attack in its African and Arab geopolitical environment” (also said Mr. Bourita on the sidelines of Mr. Borrell’s visit), it must be said that the sequence of events rather invites us to at least give the benefit of the doubt to give these authorities and believe in the potential real existence of a prosecution campaign: regardless of what one may think of the content of the related files and which, in Morocco itself, mobilizes a part of civil society, how is it not for example on January 19, 2023 that the European Parliament remembers journalists Omar Radi, Soulaiman Raissouni and Taoufik Bouachrine, all currently in prison for respective sentences of 6, 5 and 15 years? is it really just in defense of human rights? A question that is all the more legitimate since it is at the same time the radio silence that weighs in relation to the fate of members of the media corps in neighboring countries, not to mention Algeria (where only at the end of December 2022 the director) of the Maghreb Émergent electronic newspaper, Ihsane El Kadi, has just been arrested).

“Force the Line”

And it is, in the same order of ideas, the same type of questioning that actually arises in relation to the so-called “Marocgate”: are the European services really so ineffective for a country that is less economically developed than Morocco can for years behave as it pleases? At the same time, would it be totally far-fetched to believe that such networks are not also active in this case, but this time to the detriment of Morocco? Of course, some will object to the fact that, whatever the case, Mr. Panzeri now confessed. On 18 January 2023, his lawyer, Laurent Kennes, even indicated on the Euronews channel that his client was going to give the names of all the EP members who would have participated in the system he would have introduced in exchange for a reduction. in his maximum sentence of one prison term while he was to be given a four-year suspended sentence.

But can we really guarantee that everything Mr. Panzeri says, where will be, knowing the pressure he is under and that as a politician he must surely know where his immediate interest lies and that of his family, also so involved? An observer interviewed by Maroc Hebdo even ventures to use the word “return” to describe his change of tune and at the same time question the methods of the European services which in his eyes are by ensuring that he is in no way in the process of “to force the line”, of that of the political police. “These services at least act with a clear anti-Moroccan bias,” he continues.

Settlement of scores

And to draw the parallel with other cases where the Moroccan services are also accused of having acted in Europe, that of the French policeman who was allegedly bribed by the same agent cited in the “Marocgate” to obtain information get related to people on S-files transferred by Paris-Orly airport to Pegasus, concerning an alleged use by Morocco of the Israeli software of the same name to eavesdrop even on the French president, Emmanuel Macron: according to us interlocutor is the methods allegedly those of the Moroccan services were systematically too large not to be quickly unmasked. “Do you really imagine Morocco using Pegasus to spy on [M.] Macron without the Israelis feeling obliged to open up to France not to be angry with her?”, we ask.

Some will also say that we only lend to the rich and that if Moroccan services have been seen at the center of so many accusations for several years, it is also because of their proven effectiveness in other areas, especially that of the fight against terrorism. where they are generally given the reputation of one of the best services in this area in the world: let’s remember that it is thanks to Morocco, for example, that the mastermind of the attacks that hit in November 2015 was neutralized the French capital, Paris, for which Mohammed VI was later resigned by President François Hollande. Could these services also have been guilty of ineptitude at some point during their actions that caused them to end up in the long run angering those in Europe? Is this settlement of accounts, which is behind a smoke screen invisible to the majority of public opinion, currently being carried out? To what level does the effect of the rapprochement that has been operated with the non-European powers intervene, namely not only those that one would initially think of as China, India and Russia, but even the United States, since it is the Australian submarine affair illustrated. of September 2021, is the country of Uncle Sam also seen as a competitor in certain European circles? In any case, everything indicates that it would be very naive to see in the “Marocgate” only the corruption matter that everyone is talking about and at least not to suspect the existence of shadowy interests under the bushel…

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