Everything You Need To Know About The Qatar Corruption Scandal Rocking The European Parliament

Part I: Everything You Need To Know About The Qatar Corruption Scandal Rocking The European Parliament

by Swarajya Staff - Thursday, December 15, 2022 09:02 PM IST
Part I: Everything You Need To Know About The Qatar Corruption Scandal Rocking The European ParliamentEva Kaili, Greek Member of the European Parliament

An investigation into suspicions of corruption in favor of Qatar is shaking European institutions.

The corruption investigation has led to sealing offices of the European Parliament, and the seizure of over one million euros in cash, partly from the homes of a current Member of the European Parliament and a former MEP.

Four individuals were also arrested in connection with the investigation, which centers on allegations of corruption involving Qatar. Here is what we know of this affair.

The terms of the investigation

On Friday, 9 December, after revelations from the Belgian newspapers, the Belgian federal prosecutor confirmed that the Central Office for the Repression of Corruption (OCRC) had been investigating, since mid-July, "alleged facts of criminal organization, corruption and money laundering".

Without naming Qatar, it suspects: "A Gulf country of influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, by paying significant sums of money or by offering significant gifts to third parties with a political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament."

The investigation is led by investigating judge Michel Claise, a specialist in financial, corruption and money laundering issues.

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs categorically denied any attempt to associate it with accusations of misconduct. "Any association of the Qatari government with the allegations reported is baseless and seriously misinformed."

The Gulf state assures that it acts "in total respect of international laws and regulations" in its bilateral relations.

Who are the Protagonists?

1. Eva Kaili

Charged with "corruption, money laundering and criminal organization" and jailed

At the heart of the investigation, Eva Kaili, a 44-year-old Greek Member of the European Parliament, was Vice-President of the European Parliament when she was arrested.

During a search of her home, investigators discovered bags of banknotes, according to the Belgian daily L'Echo.

Her father had been arrested on 9 December, as he left the Sofitel hotel in the European quarter, in possession of a suitcase of banknotes, which constitutes the flagrant offense that allowed her parliamentary immunity to be lifted and her arrest.

The police did not disclose the amount of money discovered. According to "concurring sources" cited by L'Echo, there were approximately 600,000 euros in her father's suitcase and at least 150,000 euros in Eva Kaili's apartment.

According to her lawyer, the MEP "did not know of the existence of this money". The lawyer, who has spoken several times with Eva Kaili since her incarceration, emphasised that "only her companion [the Italian Francesco Giorgi, with whom she lived] could provide "answers on the existence of this money".

2. Pier Antonio Panzeri

Charged with "corruption, money laundering and organized crime," and imprisoned

Belgian investigators present this Italian as the key cog in the "alleged criminal organization" funded by Qatar, which is said to have infiltrated the European Parliament.

According to Le Soir, 600,000 euros in cash were found at his Brussels residence. At 67, this former S&D MEP (2004-2019) is the president of the NGO Fight Impunity which "fights against impunity in case of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity".

He is a member of the Italian Democratic and Progressive Movement Articolo Uno, which was founded in 2017 following a split from the Democratic Party. He is also an administrator of the Association of Former European Deputies, whose purpose is to "promote relations between former and current Members of the Parliament".

3. Francesco Giorgi

Charged with "corruption, money laundering and organized crime," and imprisoned

At 33, this parliamentary assistant is the partner of Eva Kaili. The Italian MEP for whom he works, Andrea Cozzolino, a member of the S&D group, chairs the delegation for relations with the countries of the Maghreb and the Arab Maghreb Union, and also sits on the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Francesco Giorgi was previously an assistant to Pier Antonio Panzeri, with whom he founded Fight Impunity.

4. Niccolo Figa-Talamanca

Charged with "corruption, money laundering and organized crime," and imprisoned

He is the secretary general of No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), located at the same address as Fight Impunity. The NGO works to protect and promote human rights, democracy, the rule of law and international justice.

According to the biography published on the NPWJ website, before becoming the organization's secretary general, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca "advised many governments and institutions on the establishment and methodology of international criminal justice institutions and other accountability processes".

5. Luca Visentini

Indicted but released on bail

Visentini, 53, is the secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which brings together 332 trade unions and claims 200 million members in 163 countries.

Sharan Burrow, the Australian whom he succeeded, was initially a fierce opponent of Qatar, before changing her tune when Doha signed a technical cooperation agreement with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2017.

Luca Visentini met with the Qatari Minister of Labor, Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, at the end of October.

Investigators also searched the offices of parliamentary assistants and the home of Marc Tarabella, a Belgian S&D MEP, co-chair of a group whose aim is to put issues related to sport back at the center of the European political agenda.

According to the Belgian newspaper, the Qatari embassy in Brussels had asked him to table amendments to a report on the protection of minors in sport.

Also Read: Part II: Everything You Need To Know About The Qatar Corruption Scandal Rocking The European Parliament

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