Qatar-EU scandal: Police search more European Parliament offices in corruption investigation

Eva Kaili (Vladimir Rys/Getty Images) (Vladimir Rys/)

Belgian police carried out further raids on the offices of the Parliament European on Monday, while the President of the European Parliament promised to launch an internal investigation into the corruption allegations and the bloc’s top official called for the creation of an independent ethics body for the entire EU.

Prosecutors investigating alleged influence-peddling from a Gulf country in the European Parliament charged four people over the weekend with corruption, involvement in a criminal group and money laundering. The Vice President of Parliament, the Greek Eva Kaili, was relieved of her duties.

Prosecutors declined to identify the country suspected of offering cash or gifts to parliament officials in exchange for political favors. Several members of the assembly and some Belgian media outlets linked the investigation to Qatar, which currently hosts the great football event, the World Cup. Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied any wrongdoing.

Police carried out Monday raids on the offices of the European Parliament in Brussels to seize computer data belonging to 10 parliamentary assistants, prosecutors said. The agents have carried out 20 raids in total within the framework of an investigation that began four months ago.

“Several have been seized hundreds of thousands of euros in three different places: 600,000 euros in the home of one of the suspectsseveral hundred thousand euros in a suitcase seized from a Brussels hotel room and some 150,000 euros in an apartment belonging to an MEP,” prosecutors said.

Kaili, who was relieved of her duties at the weekend, was expelled from the Socialists and Democrats caucus in the legislature on Monday with immediate effect.

Ursula von der Leyen once again proposed the creation of an ethics committee

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (REUTERS/Yves Herman) (YVES HERMAN/)

The European Parliament is reeling after an investigation into alleged corruption involving lawmakers, Qatar and a briefcase full of money. Against this background, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyenreiterated the need to create an ethics committee to supervise this type of activity.

The diplomat said officials are reviewing meetings held by commissioners and senior officials that could be relevant to the investigation and renewed her March proposal. create an ethics body covering all the European institutions and applying uniform rules.

“The accusations against the vice-president of the European Parliament are very worrying, very serious”, he told reporters on Monday. “It’s a matter of people’s trust in our institutions and this trust in our institutions needs higher standards of independence and integrity.”

Because there is no global regulation governing lobbying activities in the EU, the European leader said the ethics committee she proposes could oversee not only the activities of the European Commission, Council and Parliament but also the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors.

“The principles of having such a body in charge of ethics, with clear rules about what should be reviewed, how and when, and what should be published, would be a huge step forward,” von der Leyen stated.

The head of EU foreign policy, Josep BorrellMeanwhile, he indicated that the news about the investigation was very worrying. “We are very concerned by this news,” he told reporters on Monday.

The head of Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell (REUTERS / David W Cerny)
The head of Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell (REUTERS/David W Cerny) (DAVID W CERNY/)

Eva Kaili, Greek deputy and vice-president of the European Parliament, was detained in the investigation, along with Antonio Panzeri, a former Italian deputy, according to press reports. Police seized at least €750,000 (US$793,090)including a suitcase full of €50 notesreported the Belgian daily Le soir.

The investigation must continue “to the fullest extent of the law,” Germany‘s Foreign Minister said on Monday. annalena baerbock. “This affects the credibility of Europe, so we need consequences in several areas,” he told reporters in Brussels. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything like this.”

Belgian federal police raided several homes and apartments of lawmakers and advisers starting Friday in an investigation that prosecutors say involved paying large sums of money to influence decisions in the European Parliament. Qatar and Morocco were cited in some of the court documents, according to a person familiar with the matter. Four people were accused of corruption and money laundering.

Greek anti-money laundering authorities have ordered a freeze on all of Kaili’s personal assets, including property, bank accounts and more, as well as those of her husband and his family, according to a person familiar with the matter. Banks and state authorities have already been notified by the authority of her decision.

The address of another parliamentarian, the Belgian Marc Tarabellawas also raided over the weekend, but was not charged or arrested, according to Le soir.

Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's Minister of Labor, speaks with Greek Eva Kaili, Vice President of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar (Twitter/Ministry of Labor - State of Qatar via REUTERS)
Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar’s Minister of Labor, speaks with the Greek Eva Kaili, Vice President of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar (Twitter/Ministry of Labor – State of Qatar via REUTERS) (TWITTER/MINISTRY OF LABOR – STA /)

The investigation comes at a time when Qatar is in the spotlight as host of the soccer World Cup and is being courted by European governments eager to increase their purchases of natural gas. Investigators suspect the payments were part of a broader effort by Qatar to improve its image amid harsh criticism of its labor and human rights practices, according to news reports.

“If confirmed, it would mean that MEPs and activists were given money to turn a blind eye to the conditions of workers in Qatar,” the EU’s economy commissioner, the EU economy commissioner, said on Italian television on Sunday. Pablo Gentiloni, referring to members of Parliament. “She is an embarrassment and she is unacceptable.”

A Qatari official stated that the government rejects any connection to the misconduct allegations and that any association with them is without foundation. The official added that the government fully complies with international laws and regulations.

A spokesman for the European Parliament said the institution does not comment on legal proceedings, but fully cooperates with national authorities, including in this case. They had no immediate comment on the detained lawmakers. Kaili’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and Tarabella could not be reached.

(With information from AP and Bloomberg)

Keep reading:

Eva Kaili, the vice president of the European Parliament, had bags of money hidden in her house when she was arrested.

The vice president of the European Parliament who remains detained in the case linked to Qatar was charged with corruption

The corruption scandal involving Qatar and the European Parliament grows