EU Parliament Vice President and Four Others Arrested Amid Qatar Corruption Probe

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEBER 07: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT - "EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / POOL" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Vice-President of the European Parliament Eva Kaili speaks during a session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on December 07, …
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A vice president of the European Parliament and four others were arrested on Friday by Belgian police in connection to a corruption case involving the Islamist government of Qatar.

Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP from the socialist party Pasok, is reported to be among five people arrested and questioned by police in Belgium following a series of raids carried out in 16 addresses in Brussels.

The country’s federal prosecutor said in statement reported by the AFP on Friday: “Today’s searches have enabled investigators to recover about 600,000 euros in cash. Computer equipment and mobile phones were also seized. These elements will be analysed as part of the investigations.”

The prosecutor added that investigators “suspected a Gulf country [of influencing] the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament… by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts” to prominent members of the EU body.

Following the announcement of the arrests, Eva Kaili was suspended by the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament “with immediate effect” and was also removed from her socialist Paso party in Greece.

She had recently come under criticism for defending Qatar, praising the country on its labour rights despite reports that thousands of migrant workers died during the construction of stadia for this year’s World Cup. Kaili said that Qatar is a “frontrunner in labour rights.”

The Greek MEP, who serves as one of the European Parliament’s 14 vice presidents, also previously met with Qatar’s Labour Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri ahead of the World Cup.

Following the November meeting, she said: “I believe the World Cup for Arabs has been a great tool for… political transformation and reforms.”

The decision to choose Qatar as the host of the World Cup was fraught with controversy and accusations of corruption, with FIFA — international soccer’s governing body — being accused by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of taking bribes from the Qataris in exchange for hosting rights.

Despite Qatar being frequently criticised for its human rights by European leaders, countries in the bloc have increasingly turned to the Islamist kingdom to meet their energy demands following the deterioration of relations with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

Last month, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed a deal with Qatar to supply up to two million tonnes of natural gas to Germany per year.

Qatar is already one of the largest exporters of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to the bloc alongside the United States, Nigeria, Algeria, and Russia.

According to the Belgian press, former Italian socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, who currently serves as the head of a Brussels-based non-profit organisation called Fight Impunity, and another Italian, the Secretary General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Luca Visentini, were also reported to be among those arrested.

The other two arrested are believed to also be Italians, however they were yet to be named as of the time of publication.

Commenting on the arrests to POLITICO, Professor Alberto Alemanno of the HEC Paris business school said“This is the most shocking integrity scandal in the history of the EU. It unveils the inadequacy of the EU ethics system applicable to its elected as well as the absence of any attempt at governing foreign influence lobbying.”

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