A European Parliament vice president along with a handful of other EU officials and aides has been arrested and brought in for questioning by police in Brussels on Friday, with the AFP identifying that “Belgian police arrested Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili, a European Parliament vice-president, in connection with an investigation into corruption implicating World Cup host Qatar.”
Police have further sealed off the European Parliament offices of three MEPs, including Kaili, as well as Belgian S&D group members Maria Arena and Marc Tarabella. “Today’s searches have enabled investigators to recover about 600,000 euros in cash,” the prosecutors said in a statement, after their homes were also raided.
The evidence is pointing to a large influence-peddling operation which involved an exchange of cash and favours from Qatari officials. The explosive story is grabbing international headlines at the sensitive moment the Qatar-hosted World Cup is headed into the semi-finals on Saturday, down to the final four.
Earlier in the day police said that 16 raids in total were launched across Belgium’s capital, and only later on Friday was Qatar named at the centre of the probe.
“Computer equipment and mobile phones were also seized. These elements will be analysed as part of the investigations,” the Belgium-based EU prosecutor’s office stated after it was “suspected a Gulf country (of influencing) the economic and political decisions of the European parliament.”
It was done “by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to” prominent figures in the European parliament, according to the official allegation.
44-year-old Kaili has been a European MEP since 2014, and initially rose to visibility as a popular Greek television presenter.
According to more via the AP: The raids targeted in particular assistants working for EU lawmakers, the statement said. The EU assembly has 705 elected members from the bloc’s 27 member nations. Each lawmaker has a number of assistants.
Her party PASOK, or the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, moved swiftly to formally expel her, effective Friday evening, following revelation of the corruption investigation.
She is alleged to have been one among a group of European Parliament officials with “a significant political and/or strategic position” who was bribed by Qatari officials.
Despite the World Cup having thus far gone relatively smoothly, and Doha celebrating its current ‘success’ – this is sure to put a black eye on its image headed into the World Cup final, also as the story is sure to drive weekend headlines. Qatar has also long been known to engage in significant lobbying efforts in Washington as well, and has an extensive international media reach – funded by its ample oil and gas revenue – which it uses to sow influence abroad.