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Politics

MEP at Heart of EU Corruption Case to Remain in Custody

December 14, 2022

BRUSSELS — A Greek European lawmaker charged with corruption in an alleged plot by a Gulf country that’s tarnishing EU institutions will stay in detention until at least next week after her hearing by a judge was postponed, judicial officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili, whose term in office was terminated this week by fellow lawmakers, had been set to appear Wednesday before a judge in Brussels alongside three other people who have been arrested in connection with the case.

Kaili’s lawyer, André Risopoulos, said her hearing was rescheduled to Dec. 22. He declined to give further details. Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the new date, when a judge will decide on whether to remand her in custody.

Police have now conducted more than 20 raids, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy, as part of a probe into alleged bribery for political favors. Prosecutors said in a statement they suspect that people “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.”

Prosecutors have charged four people, including Kaili, with corruption, participation in a criminal group and money laundering.

Belgian authorities have not identified the Gulf country suspected of offering cash or gifts to officials at the parliament, but several members of the assembly and some Belgian media have linked the investigation to the soccer World Cup host, Qatar.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that EU relations with any foreign country implicated in the bribery would be affected were it confirmed.

“Trying to influence our decision-making with bribery, if that would be confirmed that it is the case, that it is related to certain countries, I would not see how it would not have consequences in the relation,” he said. “First of all the mistake is with the persons that let themselves be bribed. Let’s be clear on that. But it’s not only them. There’s always two sides to this.”

Arguably, Qatar has received some favorable reviews in Europe this year, however allegations that European officials were paid off to provide them typically would be hard to establish. But investigators have seized hundreds of thousands of euros at the homes of officials, according to Belgian prosecutors.

De Croo added that the scandal is proof there is a need for “more scrutiny and more transparency in the European Parliament.”

“We are a partner of the president, Roberta Metsola, to improve the functioning and to bring more transparency and to really go to the bottom of the investigation that is taking place,” he said.

 

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