EA corruption affair in connection with the World Cup host country Qatar has shaken the EU Parliament. The Belgian police arrested the Greek Vice President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, and four other people on suspicion of “gang corruption and money laundering”. On Saturday there were calls for Kaili’s resignation and further consequences. The scandal revolves around suspicions that Qatar tried to influence decisions of European lawmakers with substantial sums of money and gifts.
There were a total of five arrests in Brussels on Friday; Kaili, one of the 14 Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, was arrested at her home. Four Italians were also arrested, including Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi, who is a parliamentary assistant for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
According to information from the Belgian newspaper “L’Echo”, the investigators discovered “several sacks full of banknotes” in Kaili’s apartment. The police ordered the premises to be searched after catching Kailis’ father with a large amount of cash in “a suitcase”.
600,000 euros in cash confiscated
Pier Antonio Panzeri, former Social Democrat MEP and current head of the non-governmental organization Fight Impunity, and the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Luca Visentini, were also arrested.
According to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, the police confiscated cash amounting to around 600,000 euros as well as data carriers and mobile phones during the raids, which are now being evaluated. According to a spokesman for the investigative authority in Brussels, the five suspects were further questioned on Saturday. The responsible investigating judge had to decide whether the accused should be remanded in custody.
The public prosecutor’s office said that the country involved in the corruption case was a “Gulf State”. He is suspected of “influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament” by “paying considerable sums of money or giving away substantial gifts”. The beneficiaries are personalities with a “politically and/or strategically important position” in the EU Parliament.
Circles familiar with the investigation confirmed to the AFP news agency that the Gulf state was Qatar. The Belgian daily newspaper “Le Soir” and the weekly newspaper “Knack” had previously reported this after joint research.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called on Kaili to give up her seat in Parliament. “I hope that this woman has the decency to return her mandate,” Asselborn told the “Tagesspiegel”. Green European politician Anton Hofreiter said in an interview with the “Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland” that if the allegations were true – for which there is some evidence – Kaili would “not only have to withdraw from the Presidency of the EU Parliament, but also resign her mandate”.
Kaili defended Qatar
The non-governmental organization Transparency International (TI) said the EU Parliament had allowed the development of a “culture of impunity” and a “lack of independent ethical scrutiny” for decades. The facts that have now become known are “not an isolated case”.
Former TV presenter Kaili, 44, said in the European Parliament on November 22 that the World Cup in Qatar was “concrete proof of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world”. Qatar is a “leader in labor rights”. On the other hand, she accused some MEPs of “harassing” Qatar and being corrupt.
For years, NGOs have accused Qatar of violating the human rights of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Asia and Africa. The reports about the bad treatment of migrant workers are overshadowing the current World Cup in Qatar, where the semi-finalists are being determined.