MEP rejects Qatar bribery allegation after €1.5m seizure - Dispatch Weekly

December 14, 2022 - Reading time: 4 minutes

Greek MEP Eva Kaili has denied involvement in an alleged bribery scandal involving World Cup host Qatar at the European Parliament.

She is one of four suspects charged after Belgian investigators found €1.5m (£1.3m) in two homes and a suitcase.

MEPs have voted – by 625 to one – to strip Ms Kaili of her role as one of its 14 vice-presidents.

Parliament leader Roberta Metsola has spoken of “difficult days for European democracy”.

Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

“[Eva Kaili] declares her innocence and that she has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar,” her lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told Greek TV on Tuesday.

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 (above) 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 organisation, 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 organisations 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, ​has also reportedly ​been ​charged.

According to sources, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who currently leads the human rights organisation Fight Impunity, is also ​reported to be ​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 organisation 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.

The probe, according to watchdogs and MEPs, may be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of the ​European P​arliament.

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.​​

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.