European Parliament: what we know about the alleged corruption case that splashes a vice-president – World Today
1 What happened?
Five people were arrested Friday in Brussels, after at least 16 searches, in an investigation into suspicions of “substantial” money payments by a Gulf country to influence the decisions of MEPs. The federal prosecutor’s office did not name the country, but a judicial source familiar with the matter confirmed that it was Qatar, as revealed by the Le Soir and Knack media. The case took on an additional dimension when the identity of the fifth person arrested on Friday evening was confirmed.
2 Who is it?
This is the Greek MEP Eva Kaili, a 44-year-old former TV presenter who has become a figure of social democracy in her country. Above all, she has the title of Vice-President of the European Parliament, like 13 other elected officials. In the evening, Parliament announced a first sanction: Eva Kaili was temporarily withdrawn from the tasks delegated to her by President Roberta Metsola, such as that of representing her in the Middle East region.
“In light of the ongoing judicial investigations carried out by the Belgian authorities, President Metsola has decided to suspend with immediate effect all the powers, duties and tasks that have been delegated to Eva Kaili in her capacity as Vice-President of the European Parliament” , announced in the evening a spokesman for Ms. Metsola.
As of Friday evening, Ms. Kaili had been expelled from the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal), which would also like to see her give up her seat in the European Parliament. The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European assembly announced its suspension “with immediate effect”.
3 What do we blame him for?
The investigation by Belgian judge Michel Claise targets facts of “corruption” and “money laundering” in an organized gang. A federal investigation was quietly launched in mid-July in Belgium into an alleged criminal organization suspected of interfering in European Union politics on behalf of Qatar.
The statement explains that investigators from the Federal Judicial Police had suspected for months that a Gulf country was trying to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament by “paying large sums of money or offering significant gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament”.
On Saturday the Belgian newspaper L’Echo claimed that “several bags full of banknotes” had been discovered at the Brussels home of Eva Kaili, which the police searched after having surprised the father of the elected official himself in possession of a large amount of cash in a “suitcase”.
Eva Kaili also went to Qatar at the beginning of November, where she welcomed the reforms of the emirate in this sector in the presence of the Qatari Minister of Labor. “Qatar is a leader in terms of labor rights,” the Greek also said on November 22 from the podium of the European Parliament. These remarks, which had then caused a stir in the ranks of the left, came back to the minds of many MEPs when the announcement of Ms. Kaili’s arrest.
4 How are MEPs reacting?
French socialists denounced “a very serious scandal”, while environmentalists Michèle Rivasi and David Cormand pointed to “a culpable complacency” of certain social democrats (S & D) during the debate on Qatar at the last plenary session .
The next session, which starts Monday in Strasbourg, promises to be hectic. French MEP Manon Aubry (radical left) demanded a new debate on the same subject, castigating Saturday “the aggressive lobbying of Qatar”.
“This is not an isolated incident,” reacted the organization Transparency International the day after the police operation. “For several decades, Parliament has allowed a culture of impunity to develop (…) and a total absence of independent ethical control”. This control in the institution is “defective”, added on Twitter Alberto Alemanno, professor of law at the College of Europe in Bruges.
5 Who are the other people arrested?
According to information confirmed to AFP, they would be Italians or people of Italian origin: the former socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri (who sat from 2004 to 2019), the general secretary of the Trade Union Confederation (CSI) Luca Visentini, as well as Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant from the S & D group, companion of Mrs Kaili.
In addition to the five in Belgium, there were two arrests in Italy, an Italian government source in Rome confirmed on Saturday. They are Mr. Panzeri’s wife and daughter.
6 What is the status of the legal proceedings opened in Belgium?
On Saturday, the hearings of five suspects continued in Brussels. A possible placement in pre-trial detention by the investigating judge must be decided within 48 hours after the arrest, ie Sunday at the latest.
7 How is Qatar defending itself?
“Any allegation of misconduct on the part of the State of Qatar testifies to serious misinformation,” a Qatari government official told AFP on Saturday. The affair broke out in the middle of the 2022 World Cup, while the organizing country must make efforts to defend its decried reputation for respect for human rights, in particular those of workers.
letelegramme Fr Trans