The police in Belgium detained five people, including former and current members of the EU Parliament, on charges of receiving bribe from Qatar to influence the European Parliament’s decisions.
In a news release this Sunday, the Belgian prosecutor’s office issued a statement and announced the arrest of five suspects as part of an inquiry into suspected bribes by Qatar to the EU officials to possibly influence decision-making in the EU Parliament.
The investigation operation, which is still ongoing, is focused on what could turn out as the biggest scandal in the history of the European Parliament.
“For several months, investigators of the Federal Judicial Police have suspected a Gulf country to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament,” the Belgian prosecutor’s office said in its news conference on Sunday, adding also that “this is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament”.
The arrests followed raids in in 16 locations — including private residences across the capital, Brussels, which prosecutors said turned up discovering and confiscating 600,000 euros ($630,000) in cash. Police also seized computers and mobile phones.
Although in the news release, the Belgium police did not refer to the country linked to the inquiry by name, the Belgian officials directly involved with the investigation and a European lawmaker who requested anonymity later said that it was Qatar. The Belgian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to divulge further details publicly, also noted that the inquiry had been underway for at least four months, and that the possible crimes occurred during that period and potentially earlier are also the case for more investigations. The news of the investigation was first reported on Friday by the Belgian news outlets Le Soir.
Who are the detainees?
In the news conference, the Belgian officials noted that those detained were Eva Kaili, one of the Parliament’s vice presidents and a prominent EU lawmaker since 2014; Kaili’s husband, Francesco Giorgi, who works as an aide to another European lawmaker; Luca Visentini, the recently elected chief of the global workers’ union, the International Trade Union Confederation; and Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of the European Parliament. The identity of the fifth person in custody was not known.
The European Parliament is one of the three key institutions of the European Union. It has 705 members, who are elected in their home countries and serve for five years. Members of the EU Parliaments do not initiate legislation, but their approval is usually required to pass it.
They can also censure the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, and play an often-high-profile role in scrutinizing the bloc’s policies.
Qatar denied any allegation
The bribery scandal comes against the Qatari government at a very critical time as the Gulf country is hosting the men’s soccer World Cup. Qatar is already faced with strong criticism over the exploitation of migrant workers who helped build the tournament’s infrastructure in a short period of time.
Regarding the EU Parliament scandal, however, a Qatari official denied accusations of possible misconduct and said the country has always respected and complied in full capacity with international laws. Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the official added that “any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed”.
God to mention here that for months before the start of the FIFA World Cup, Qatar was accused of giving millions of dollars in bribes to FIFA officials to host the tournament.