Qatar suspected of corruption in European Parliament: Vice President among 5 arrested in Belgium
Steph Deschamps / December 10, 2022
Five arrests and 16 searches were carried out on Friday in Brussels as part of a vast anti-corruption investigation by the federal prosecutor's office. A former MEP and the head of the International Trade Union Confederation were deprived of their freedom. One of the fourteen vice-presidents of the European Parliament was also arrested for questioning, the federal prosecutor's office said Saturday evening, confirming information from the newspaper Le Soir and the weekly Knack. According to the two media, it is the Greek MEP Eva Kaili (S&D, Social Democrats) but the Federal Prosecutor's Office did not comment on the names of the persons incriminated.
Eva Kaili is vice-president of the European Parliament since this year and is responsible, among other things, for relations with the Middle East. Her companion F.G. - a parliamentary assistant to the S&D - has already been questioned by investigators during the day Friday, adds the two media. The interested party has worked in the past for the Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and is also active in his association Fight Impunity, where a search would also have taken place Friday morning, as well as at the home of the former Italian MEP where nearly 500,000 euros in cash were also seized.
The last two people arrested were a lobbyist and the trade unionist Luca Visentini. The latter was elected General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in November, which has 200 million members worldwide.
Sixteen searches were conducted Friday as part of this investigation and four people were arrested. "For several months, investigators of the PJF (Federal Judicial Police, editor's note) suspect a Gulf country to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, that by paying large sums of money or offering significant gifts to third parties with a significant political or strategic position in the European Parliament, "said earlier today the Federal Prosecutor. According to Knack and Le Soir, the Gulf state in question is Qatar, where the World Cup is currently taking place.
A judicial investigation was therefore opened for alleged criminal organization, corruption and money laundering. Sixteen searches were conducted in Ixelles, Schaerbeek, Crainhem, Forest and Brussels. "This operation targeted in particular parliamentary assistants working in the European Parliament. Among those arrested was a former member of the European Parliament," the federal prosecutor's office said.
These searches allowed officers led by Judge Michel Claise, who specializes in financial matters, to get their hands on over half a million euros in cash. "These searches were aimed mainly at computer and telephone equipment. Material that is already in operation. Relatively large sums of money were also found, since at one of the addresses, 600,000 euros in cash were found, which raises questions," said Eric Van Duyse, spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office.