Qatargate: Marie Arena's son caught with €280,000 in cash

Qatargate: Marie Arena's son caught with €280,000 in cash
Marie Arena. Credit: EP Photo

Belgian investigators have seized €280,000 in cash from an apartment belonging to the son of Belgian MEP Marie Arena: one of the leading figures implicated in the Qatargate corruption scandal.

Investigators discovered the money at the home of 32-year-old Ugo Lemaire during a search of six properties connected to Arena on 19 July. Lemaire lives in an apartment adjacent to his mother's residence.

According to Le Soir, who first broke the story, the origin of the money is unknown and no direct link with the Qatargate scandal has yet been established.

This is the second time that Lemaire's name has recently cropped up in connection with the Qatargate investigation. Just two months ago, it was discovered that Nicolas Claise, the son of the case's former investigating judge Michel Claise, had co-founded a legal cannabidiol (CBD) business with Lemaire in 2018.

The resulting allegations of a conflict of interest caused Claise to recuse himself from the investigation, leading to the appointment of Aurélie Dejaiffe as the investigating judge.

Le Soir was unable to reach Lemaire for comment. His lawyers, Denis Bosquet and Maxime Nardone, also declined to comment.

Innocuous ties?

Arena denies any involvement in the scandal and has not been formally charged by the Belgian authorities. Nevertheless, over the last few months there have been repeated reports of the 56-year-old's possible improper ties to foreign governments.

In January, Arena resigned from her position as Chair of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, after Politico reported she had failed to properly declare that her accommodation and flights to and from Doha on 8 and 9 May last year had been paid for by the Qatari Government.

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In March, leaked testimony from Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri – who has admitted to accepting bribes and is now cooperating with federal investigators – revealed that he and Arena had stayed at a luxury hotel in Marrakech in 2015 on a trip largely funded by the Moroccan Government. (However, Panzeri also claimed that Arena was unaware of who actually sponsored the trip.)

Furthermore, in June news broke that former investigating judge Michel Claise twice came close to formally requesting the suspension of Arena's parliamentary immunity.

The second request was reportedly close to being finalised in mid-June: just days before Claise stepped down from the investigation following allegations that he himself had improper links to Arena.

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