Several individuals including Vice-President of the European Parliament Eva Kaili were arrested on Saturday over an alleged bribery and corruption scandal involving the Gulf state of Qatar.
The European Parliament has been in the middle of the corruption affair since Friday. Authorities moved over the weekend to conduct 20 searches and made several arrests, including six in Brussels and two more in Italy.
On one side, is the very rich Qatar, which is currently hosting the World Cup. On the other, you have MEPs, EP staff, and heads of organizations. An unnamed source from the investigation team said the emirate is suspected by Belgian justice officials of having wanted “to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament by paying large sums of money or offering important gifts.”
On Sunday, four of the six people arrested on Friday in Brussels were charged and imprisoned “for being part of a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption.” Among them was Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who is also vice-president of the institution and a member of the Social Democrat group. The 44-year-old former television presenter could not benefit from the immunity her status otherwise entitles, as the offense was discovered in flagrante delicto. Large amounts of cash were found at her home during a search on Friday evening. Her father had been arrested the same morning, leaving a Brussels hotel in possession of a suitcase full of cash.
The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola on Saturday evening took a first sanction against the elected representative, withdrawing all Kaili’s responsibilies, including that of representing Metsola in the Middle East. At the request of the Renew group, all the files in which the vice-president was involved will soon be investigated. Members of the European Parliament, including the leader of the Greens, Philippe Lamberts, are calling for her resignation. The dismissal procedure is expected to be launched on Monday.
Kaili visited Qatar at the beginning of November, where she had welcomed, in the presence of the Qatari minister of labour, the emirate’s reforms in this sector. “Qatar is a leader in terms of labor rights,” the Greek MEP stated on Nov. 22 at the European Parliament. These words, which had then caused a stir in the ranks of the left, have returned to the minds of many MEPs following the announcement of her arrest.
According to information confirmed to AFP, at least three suspects arrested on Friday are Italians or of Italian origin: former Socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri (who served from 2004 to 2019), Secretary General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Luca Visentini, and Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant of the S&D group and companion of Eva Kaili. In addition to the five in Belgium, there were two arrests in Italy confirmed by an Italian government source to AFP in Rome; these are understood to be the wife and daughter of Pier-Antonio Panzeri.