Qatar corruption scandal: New searches in European Parliament

Qatar corruption scandal: New searches in European Parliament
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The Federal Prosecutor's Office has conducted new searches as part of the corruption scandal at the European Parliament in Brussels: ten offices that were sealed last week have been searched. Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella (PS) has been temporarily expelled from the European Socialist Group.

The investigation into "a Persian Gulf country" that is "trying to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament" already started in June 2022, the Federal Prosecutor's Office told VRT.

Belgian media Knack and Le Soir previously reported that the country in question is World Cup host Qatar, information since corroborated by various media outlets. The country reportedly tried to influence decisions by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to people with important positions in the European Parliament.

Last Friday, special units raided 16 sites in the Brussels-Capital Region, sealing ten offices in the European Parliament. Six people were arrested; two of them were released after interrogation. On Monday, new searches were carried out in the same ten offices "to prevent the disappearance of data that could be important for the investigation."

'European democracy is under attack'

Since the start of the operation on Friday morning, a total of 20 house searches have been conducted and a remarkable amount of money seized, the Federal Prosecutor's Office told De Morgen. "€600,000 in the home of one of the suspects, several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room and about €150,000 in an apartment belonging to a member of the European Parliament."

At the opening of the plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola lashed out at MEPs suspected of corruption.

"European democracy is under attack and our open, free, democratic societies are under attack. There will be no impunity. None. Those responsible will find this Parliament on the side of the law." Metsola promised full cooperation with the Federal Prosecutor's investigation and an internal investigation into the corruption scandal.

The biggest name in the corruption scandal is that of Greek politician Eva Kaili, an MEP for the Greek party PASOK and a member of the European Social Democratic Group S&D. This year, Kaili also briefly served as one of the 14 Vice-Presidents of Parliament.

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Kaili was arrested on Friday and has since been expelled from PASOK and the S&D faction, and she has also been suspended as Vice-President. On Tuesday morning, the European Parliament in Strasbourg will consider whether Kaili can remain as Vice-President.

The S&D has also temporarily suspended Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella (of the Francophone socialist PS party) along with two Italian colleagues. The three politicians are said to be directly involved in the investigation.

Marie Arena, also a Belgian MEP representing the PS in the European Parliament, has stepped back temporarily as Chair of the human rights committee as well. She announced her resignation from the committee on Twitter.

The investigation has no direct link with Arena's position as an MEP but with the work of her assistant for an NGO mentioned in the case who is part of the entourage of Pier Antonio Panzeri, former MEP for S&D and Arena's predecessor as chair of the human rights commission. Panzeri has been arrested.

The Qatari Government has denied accusations that it is involved in the corruption scandal. "It is unfounded to link the accusations to the government in Doha," said Qatar's EU representation in Brussels, stressing that the country is acting "in full compliance with international laws and regulations."

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