Qatargate: Belgian spies were investigating Russian and Chinese meddling in the EU when they uncovered the bribery scandal

A combination of images showing several hundred thousand euros found in a hotel room (Photo by HANDOUT / Police Judiciaire Federale / AFP) (HANDOUT/)

The political life of Brussels has been shaken in recent days by a alleged bribery scheme in the European Parliament linked to Qatar and Moroccowhose main protagonists have gone from public anonymity to the front pages of the media throughout Europe.

Belgian secret service agents found 700,000 euros in cash hidden in the home of a former Italian MEP after breaking into his home. They suspect that the Greek MEP eva kaili and three others took bribes from the World Cup host to influence EU policy making.

And now it transpired that the Belgian spies who discovered the bribery scandal in Qatar that allegedly involved one of the European vice presidents did so in the midst of investigations into the foreign meddling widespread in the European Union, but especially Russia Y Chinaas reported by the same Belgian Justice Minister.

The Belgian Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenbornehe told the newspaper le soir that the investigation “was a game changer that state security has been working on for over a year, together with foreign intelligence services, to map suspected bribery of MEPs by various countries.”

The revelation of the operation of the Belgian secret service came when Francesco GiorgioKaili’s partner, confessed to his role in a corruption scandal in Qatar, they told the news agency Reuters two sources with direct knowledge.

Who is who

1. Eva Kaili: Former television presenter, Greek Social Democratic MEP and one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament until that position was withdrawn in the wake of the scandal, Kaili, 44, is the most relevant name in the corrupt plot.

The Belgian police found hundreds of thousands of euros in the Brussels home of the politician, which allowed her arrest despite enjoying parliamentary immunity, since the Belgian authorities consider that she was caught committing a “flagrant” crime.

FILE PHOTO: Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's Labor Minister, speaks with the Greek Eva Kaili (REUTERS/Twitter/Ministry of Labor - State of Qatar)
FILE PHOTO: Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar’s Minister of Labor, speaks with the Greek Eva Kaili (REUTERS/Twitter/Ministry of Labor – State of Qatar) (TWITTER/MINISTRY OF LABOR – STA/)

Kaili is in pretrial detention and accused of criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.

2. Francesco Giorgi: Assistant in the Eurochamber and sentimental partner for five years of Kaili, with whom he has a daughter, this Italian is accused of the same charges as his partner.

Giorgi, 35, is in pretrial detention and, according to the Belgian daily le soirhas confessed his participation in the plot in the interrogations and has pointed to others involved.

3. Alexandros Kailis: He is the father of Kaili, who was detained by police leaving a Brussels hotel with bags of cash.

4. Pier Antonio Panzeri: Former European deputy between 2004 and 2019, former union leader and founder of the NGO Fight Impunity (Fight against impunity), this 67-year-old Italian social democrat would be the central protagonist of the bribery scheme. Belgian police found 700,000 euros in cash at his home.

5. Maria Colleoni and Silvia Panzeri: Panzeri’s wife and daughter have been arrested in Italy at the request of the Belgian Justice, which, based on wiretaps, considers that they helped the politician in his illegal activities.

6. Niccolo Figa-Talamanca: He is an Italian lobbyist and secretary general of the NGO No peace Without Justice (There is no peace without justice), which shares its headquarters with Fight Impunity in a small building in Brussels (41 rue Ducale).

Figa-Talamanca is also charged and has been released although he is forced to wear an electronic bracelet.

7. Marc Tarabella: A member of the European Parliament since 2009, the 59-year-old Belgian Social Democrat has been suspended from both his party in Belgium and the socialist group in the European Parliament on suspicion that he was part of the corrupt organization after police searched his office in Parliament European and his home.

Marc Tarabella (REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
Marc Tarabella (REUTERS/Johanna Geron) (JOHANNA GERON/)

Tarabella, who is vice president of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Arabian Peninsula (DARP), assures that he never received “any gift from Qatar” and that, if he had, he would have denounced it, but Kaili’s boyfriend has indicated in his confession as one of those involved in the plot.

8. Luca Visentini: General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Visenti, 53, is accused of the corrupt plot and on probation. Very critical of Qatar a decade ago, when he denounced that workers there were reduced to “slavery”, the positions of the union leader evolved over the years towards much kinder positions.

9.Marie Arena: The name of this French-speaking Belgian socialist MEP, 55, has been linked to the corrupt plot since the scandal broke, even before the court charged an assistant in the European Parliament of this former Belgian Minister of Public Administration.

Although at the moment there is no formal accusation against Arena, the politician herself has suspended her functions as president of the Human Rights subcommittee of the Eurochamber.

10. Parliamentary assistant: It has emerged that among the defendants there is a parliamentary assistant from Marie Arena, but his name is not yet known.

11.Andrea Cozzolino: An Italian Social Democratic MEP since 2009, he employed Giorgi, Kaili’s sentimental partner, as an assistant in the European Parliament, who has pointed to him as one of those involved in the bribery scheme.

The 60-year-old politician was a member of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament chaired by Arena, and was also part of the parliamentary investigation commission on the use of spyware such as Pegasus, whose final report, still in the process of amendments , mention Morocco.

12. Abderrahim Atmoun: He is the Moroccan ambassador to Poland and his name appears on the arrest warrant sent by Belgium to Italy to request the arrest and surrender of Panzieri’s wife and daughter, suspected of having withdrawn “gifts” from the plot at the Moroccan diplomatic legation in Warsaw.

13.Michel Claise: It is the Belgian judge who investigates the cause of the corrupt plot. Belgian, French-speaking and 66 years old, he specializes in the fight against financial crime, has a reputation as a magistrate without fear of investigating sensitive matters and confesses to being a member of Freemasonry.

(With information from EFE)

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