EU corruption scandal: MEP rejects Qatar bribery following €1.5 million seizure

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Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP, has denied involvement in a World Cup host country Qatar-related bribery controversy before the European Parliament.

After discovering €1.5 million (£1.3 million) in two apartments and a suitcase, Belgian detectives charged four individuals, including her.

By a vote of 625 to 1, MEPs decided to remove Ms. Kaili from her position as one of its 14 vice presidents.

Roberta Metsola, the speaker of the parliament, has mentioned “tough days for European democracy.”

Any misconduct has been refuted by Qatar.

Eva Kaili’s attorney, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said to Greek TV on Tuesday that Eva Kaili “declares her innocence and that she has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar.”

After several days of searching, prosecutors reported finding cash totaling roughly €600,000 at the residence of one suspect, €150,000 at the apartment of an MEP, and €750,000 in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room.

On Tuesday, Belgian police released a picture of stacks of bills with values of 200, 50, 20, and 10 euros.

Apparently, the €150,000 was discovered at Ms. Kaili’s apartment. Her attorney responded, “I have no idea if any money was recovered or how much was found,” when asked if that was the case.

According to prosecutors, the suspects detained by Belgian police have been accused of “membership in a criminal organization, money-laundering, and corruption.” On Wednesday, they will show up in front of a pretrial court.

The charges have raised questions about the function of lobby organizations within the European Parliament. This week, MEPs were scheduled to vote on a suggestion allowing Qataris to enter the EU without a visa; however, the proposal has since been tabled.

Searches have been conducted in Brussels and Italy. Ten members of the parliamentary staff have had their IT resources “frozen” since Friday in order to prevent the loss of information crucial to the investigation.

Tuesday’s revocation of Ms. Kaili’s vice-presidency was approved by an overwhelming majority of the Strasbourg-based parliament. The “access banned” sign was taped to the door to her office in the parliament building.

She has also been kicked out of the Greek Pasok center-left party and suspended from the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament.

Assets that belong to her, her husband, and her immediate family have been frozen by Greek authorities.

The MEP and her partner in Athens recently established a property firm, but its operations have since been suspended.

As part of the investigation into claims that Qatar bribed EU officials to gain influence, six people were detained on Friday. Later, two were released.

The three additional suspects are all nationals of Italy. Francesco Giorgi, a legislative aide and Ms. Kaili’s spouse, is reportedly charged.

According to sources, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who currently leads the human rights organization Fight Impunity, is also one of the four. According to reports, his daughter and wife were also detained. Formerly, Mr. Giorgi served as his parliamentary assistant.

Niccol Figa-Talamanca is the second suspect, according to the Italian news agency Ansa. He is the leader of the lobbying organization No Peace Without Justice, located in the same European district of Brussels building on Rue Ducale.

Luca Visentini, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, was interrogated before being let go. Later, he claimed that he had been able to respond to all queries.

According to BBC Brussels journalist Jessica Parker, the information made public by Belgian officials over the past few days left many in the EU community speechless.

Speaking to our correspondent, MEPs expressed disbelief at the claims’ scope and blatantness.

Before the vote to remove Ms. Kaili from her top position in the Parliament, Ms. Metsola declared that “European democracy is under threat, as are our free and democratic societies.” She stressed on Tuesday that she and the Parliament would do all in their power to combat corruption: “There will be no impunity, and there will be no sweeping under the rug.”

The bribery inquiry, according to watchdogs and MEPs, may be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of the parliament.

According to prosecutors, a Gulf state has been meddling in the political and economic decisions of the parliament for a number of months, particularly by targeting aides.

Despite widespread reports identifying the country as Qatar, the Qatari authorities claimed any accusations of wrongdoing were “gravely incorrect.”

The Middle East was one of Ms. Kaili’s vice-presidential responsibilities.

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