Belgium’s federal prosecutor has again searched dozens of homes in the European Parliament’s corruption investigation. The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced this afternoon that there are also searches in Italy. In addition, dozens of parliamentary aides have been blocked from accessing their computers to prevent the information from being erased.
The Public Prosecutor also confirmed that 600,000 euros were seized at the home of one of the suspects. A suitcase with “hundreds of thousands of euros” was also found in a hotel room in Brussels and 150,000 euros in the apartment of an MEP.
Belgian police arrested six suspects. Four suspects are still in detention, including a member of the European Parliament. They are suspected of money laundering, corruption and belonging to a criminal organization.
Today, four deputies from the Social Democratic Party have temporarily resigned from their posts because they are somehow linked to bribery by Qatar. They are Italian and Belgian.
Greek vice president
No names were given, but the detained MEP is almost certainly Greek Eva Kaili, one of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament. According to the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad tomorrow morning, President Roberta Metsola and the heads of political groups in the European Parliament will consider whether she can Stay Vice President.
Metsola wants a major investigation into lobbying practices in parliament. It wants to know who has access to the buildings and also which foreign parties have contact with MEPs. “Nothing is going to be swept under the rug,” said the chairman.
The investigation revolves around the question of whether the suspects had taken a bribe from a state in the Arabian Peninsula. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office does not want to name the country, but it is widely believed to be Qatar. The goal was to influence decision-making in parliament in a positive direction for the country. Qatar denies all allegations.
In the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup, Qatar received a lot of criticism regarding the human rights situation there and especially the working conditions of immigrants. His colleagues in parliament noted that Kylie stood by Qatar despite all the criticism. For example, in a speech she gave last month she said the Gulf state is at the forefront of workers’ rights and criticized people who criticize Qatar.
She was also remarkably positive about the situation in Qatar on Twitter.
The European Parliament is scheduled to vote tomorrow on whether citizens of Qatar can travel to EU countries without a visa. Kylie pressured to get it done. It is unclear if this vote will continue.
Yerwin Leniers is a member of the committee that prepared the proposal. Kylie called him several times this past summer. “I thought it was cool then because she hadn’t called me before,” says Leniers. For example, I asked Liners how things were going and if they could speed things up a bit. “Knowing today, that’s what’s most surprising,” Leniers says.
Others note that she was present at a parliamentary committee to vote on the issue, although she was not involved in the matter. “I sat in the back, where only the employees sit,” Katarina Barley, a member of the group, told German broadcaster ZDF. “Away from our group. You could also say: She was hiding.”
The Public Prosecution Office does not want to identify the suspect in the investigation, but according to the Belgian and Italian media, in addition to Caylee, the matter concerns her partner and former Italian deputy Antonio Panziri, his wife and daughter. Both Kylie and Panziri are from the Social Democratic Party.
Panziri is the head of the human rights organization Fighting Impunity, which says it is committed to prosecuting perpetrators of human rights abuses. The Financial Times wrote that he, his wife and daughter were said to have been on paid leave from Qatar worth €100,000.
Belgian magazine Knack has learned that investigators consider Panziri to be central to the fraud case. In 2017, he had to pay the European Parliament nearly €84,000 for falsely making expense claims. He is also known as a defender of Qatar’s interests.
The Social Democratic Group met today to consult on the crisis. “It was a very intense conversation. We are also very angry and disappointed with the colleagues involved in this,” said PvdA MEP Muhammad Shahim. “All facts must come out. Until then, we will ask those concerned not to participate in political decision-making,” says Chahim.
The home of Belgian MP Marc Tarabella was also searched. He is also a member of the Democratic Socialist Group and vice-chairman of the Parliament’s Relations Committee with Qatar and other Arab countries.
“I have nothing to hide and I will answer all the investigators’ questions if it can help them shed light on this case,” he told Belgian media. He puts his job temporarily.
The other three SPD deputies who have temporarily resigned are the Belgian Maria Arena and the Italians Petro Bartolo and Andrea Cozzolino. Cozzolino’s assistant is Kylie’s partner.
This is not the first time that a corruption investigation has been opened in the European Parliament. In 2011, the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Office launched a corruption investigation. The Sunday Times journalists had posed as lobbyists and tricked MEPs into accepting bribes.
In the end, three MEPs were sentenced to prison terms.
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