Qatar corruption scandal: European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili suspended

Qatar corruption scandal: European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili suspended
MEP Eva Kaili. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Elected officials in the European Parliament (EP) and NGOs have called for an urgent debate on improving the rules ethics at the European Parliament after anti-corruption proceedings on Friday led to five arrests, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili.

"S&Ds will request a new point in the agenda of the next EP conference of presidents, based on art. 21 of the rules of procedure," said Iratxe Garcia Perez, leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament.

"Given the investigation, Eva Kaili should be replaced as EP vice-president in order to protect the institution’s respectability & citizens’ trust."

Parliament on Friday announced it would sanction Kaili (S&D) and lose mandate over tasks that European President Roberta Metsola had assigned to her, such as representing the Middle East region.

"This is not an isolated incident," said the organization Transparency International the day after the police operation. "For several decades, Parliament has allowed a culture of impunity to develop (…) and a total absence of independent ethical control."

The European Parliament had "become a law unto itself", said Michel Van Hulten, director of Transparency International. "It is time for root and branch reform."

The institution's control is "defective," tweeted Alberto Alemanno, professor of law at the College of Europe in Bruges.

The Parliament's Greens group have called for a full investigation into the matter.

Corruption charges

On Friday, five people linked to the EP, including Kaili, were arrested after 16 searches in an investigation that examined suspicious payment in cash by a Gulf state to influence the MEPs.

The others arrested including Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant linked to the S&D group, ex-MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri ( a socialistin the parliament between 2004 and 2019

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The federal prosecutor's office initially didn't reveal the country, but Le Soir and Knack revealed that the country in question was Qatar.

"Any allegation of misconduct on the part of the State of Qatar testifies to serious misinformation," an official from Qatar told AFP on Saturday.

The incident happened during the World Cup 2022 in which Qatar has battled to defend itself against charges of human rights abuse, particularly those of foreign workers.

Expelled from power

44-year-old Greek MEP Eva Kaili is a former TV presenter and has championed socialdemocratic issues in Greece. The EU has stripped Kaili off her titles, powers and tasks associated with her role at the European Parliament.

Belgian media outlet L'Echo reported that "several bags full of (cash) notes" were discovered at Kaili's Brussels home.

Friday evening, Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal) expelled Kaili from their group, urging her to quit her seat at the European Parliament. The S&D group announced it suspended her "with immediate effect."

On Saturday, the hearings of the five suspects continued in Brussels, according to a spokesperson for Belgium's federal prosecutor's office.

The investigating judge will decide if the suspects will be placed in pre-trial detention within 48 hours, which means on Sunday at the latest.

Belgian judge Michael Claise will consider corruption and money laundering charges within an organised group, according to the prosecution.

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