Prosecutors charge 4 in European Parliament corruption probe

Prosecutors charge 4 in European Parliament corruption probe

11 Dec 2022 ( DW )

Greek MEP Eva Kaili is among four suspects charged and remanded in custody on Sunday in Belgium in connection with a corruption scandal at the European Parliament involving World Cup hosts Qatar, media reports said.

“Four individuals have been arrested by the Brussels investigating judge who is leading the investigation,” the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“They are charged with participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. Two persons have been released by the investigating judge.”

The statement did not identify the suspects. But the AFP news agency and Belgian newspapers cited judicial sources as saying that Kaili was among those charged.

Belgian media named those charged as Kaili, her parliamentary adviser Francesco Giorgi and former Italian Social Democrat MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri. A Brussels lobbyist, who was also charged and remanded in custody, was not identified.

Belgian media named those released as Kaili’s father and Luca Visentini, the secretary-general of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Home of second lawmaker searched

The home of a second MEP was searched late Saturday in connection with the scandal, the prosecutor’s office said.

The Brussels-based newspaper Le Soir named the lawmaker as Belgian Social Democrat Marc Tarabella.

Kaili was among six suspects arrested in Brussels on Friday and the 44-year-old’s home was searched after her father was allegedly caught leaving a hotel with €600,000 ($632,000) in a bag, according to Belgian media reports.

Kaili loses VP powers

Following the revelations, Kaili was stripped of her powers as a vice president of the parliament, which sits in Brussels and in Strasbourg, but she is still an MEP and would normally enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution.

Kaili’s arrest led to calls for her formal resignation. Greece’s left-wing PASOK party has expelled her and the European leftist political group to which PASOK belongs has announced her suspension.

The Belgian Prosecutor’s Office said that it had suspected for several months that a Gulf state — identified by Belgian media as Qatar — had paid large amounts of money and offered gifts to influential people within the European Parliament.

Qatar faced stiff criticism over its human rights record in the build-up to the World Cup, as thousands of migrant workers have died while building the infrastructure, including stadia, for the tournament.

Questionable vote

Kaili had recently made positive comments about Qatar’s labor rights record and on December 1, she and Tarabella voted in favor of an EU visa liberalization process for Qatari nationals during a parliamentary committee meeting that neither of them sits on.

While Brussels is home to around 25,000 lobbyists, who regularly try to influence political decisions, the latest scandal has been described as the most egregious case of alleged influence-buying at the European Parliament in recent years.

DW’s Brussels correspondent Jack Parrock said the scandal has sent “shockwaves through the EU institutions.”

“The European Parliament puts itself forward as the bastion of fundamental democracy, rights and values in the European Union. So this is a big reputational issue for them as well as for Qatar,” he added.

Qatar rejects misconduct allegations

The Gulf state’s mission to the EU released a statement Sunday saying it “categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct. Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed.”

The statement added that Qatar “works through institution-to-institution engagement and operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations.”