ATHENS – Suspended European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili, who was also ejected from Greece’s PASOK Socialist party, was charged along with three others in an investigation into Qatar allegedly paying bribes to influence lawmakers.
Kaili had been arrested as part of the corruption probe by Belgian authorities into suspected illicit lobbying by Qatar during the ongoing World Cup after she on the floor of the Parliament praised its labor rights record despite reports some 6500 former workers died building facilities for the games.
“It is suspected that third parties in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence Parliament’s decisions,” the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said.
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The prosecutor refused to name the country or those charged, said POLITICO in a report, although their names have been all over media reports, the European Union having generally strict privacy rules for those accused even of major crimes.
They were charged with “participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.” The other two have been released, it said.
Belgian newspaper L’Echo and other media reported that the individuals charged include Kaili and the French newspaper Le Soir said among the others was her partner Francesco Giorgi.
He is a parliamentary assistant to another MEP and a founder of the NGO Fight Impunity an anti-corruption group whose leader, Italian former MEP Antonio Panzeri, also was charged in the case, according to Le Soir. An unnamed lobbyist also was charged, it said. The four will remain in custody.
Kaili’s father, who was also detained in the probe, was released, as was trade union leader Luca Visentini, according to the reports.
The Belgian newspaper L’Echo claimed that “several bags full of banknotes” were discovered at Kaili’s Brussels home that was searched after allegedly finding her father in possession of a large amount of cash in “a suitcase.”
Kaili was also suspended from the Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats party that had been reluctant to speak out against Qatar despite widespread criticism of its human rights and labor rights record.
Panzeri’s wife and daughter were arrested by Italian police on Friday in the investigation, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and confirmed by POLITICO, the site also said.
The home of Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, a Vice-Chair of the Parliament’s delgation for relations with the Arab Peninsula and also its sports group was raided but he was not arrested, media reports said.
The suspicion of the investigators is that Qatar used money and gifts to influence economic and political decisions in the Parliament which Transparency International said, “This is not an isolated incident. For several decades, (the European) Parliament has allowed a culture of impunity to develop … and a total absence of independent ethical control.”
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said she and the assembly stand “firmly against corruption, are actively and fully cooperating with law enforcement and judicial authorities to assist the course of justice.”