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‘Qatargate’: bags of money, an imprisoned MEP and the European Parliament before its biggest corruption case

‘Qatargate’: bags of money, an imprisoned MEP and the European Parliament before its biggest corruption case

‘Qatargate’: bags of money, an imprisoned MEP and the European Parliament before its biggest corruption case

Less than a month ago, the Greek MEP eva kailialso vice president of European Parliament, made a strong defense of Qatar, a country that he had visited a few weeks ago. He described the Arab country as a “model in labor rights” and claimed that it had become the target of ‘bullying’ by the West. “Qatar’s soccer tournament is a concrete example of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world.”, he told his colleagues in the European Parliament on November 22.

His words, which at the time provoked criticism for the accusations of human rights violations that persecute Qatar, have resonated again in the last week after a major corruption scandal broke out in the European Parliament.

LOOK: Who is Eva Kaili, the vice president of the European Parliament accused of corruption in the Qatargate scandal

Last Friday the 9th, an extensive investigation into alleged bribery of influential figures in the European Parliament to improve the image of Qatar led to the arrest in Belgium of six people, including four defendants. Kaili is one of them and the most recognizable figure in the case.

For several months now, investigators from the federal judicial police have suspected that a Gulf country is influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, and it does so by means of considerable sums of money or offering important gifts to people with a political position and/or significant strategic within the European Parliament”, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said shortly after in a statement.

Belgian media such as “Le Soir” and “Knack” and other European newspapers point out that the country in question is Qatar, although the government of that nation has denied being involved. The scandal has been baptized by the press as ‘Qatargate’.

The Belgian Prosecutor’s Office has reported that around one million euros have been seized during their searches from the people investigated in the case.

That same Friday, the authorities found some 150,000 euros in 20 and 50 euro bills at Kaili’s home. The Social Democrat was arrested and on Sunday the 11th she was charged with the crimes of participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.

Eva Kaili was stripped of her post as Vice President of the European Parliament. (Photo: AFP) (ERIC VIDAL/)

According to Belgian media, justice has charged the adviser in the European Parliament and Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi with the same crimes, a Brussels lobbyist and the former Italian Social Democrat MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, in whose house more than half a million euros were found.

In addition, two people involved have been released, including Kaili’s father, who was arrested by police on Friday “red-handed” as he tried to escape with bags full of banknotes, prosecutor sources said.

earthquake in brussels

In an action to regain credibility, the European Parliament dismissed Kaili from the post of vice president on Tuesday the 13th, who had already been expelled from the Social Democratic group on Monday. She was also stripped of all responsibilities associated with her position, including relations with the Middle East.

This has quite negatively affected the image of the European Parliament (EP). Since the presidency of the European Parliament there has not been direct talk of rotten apples, but rather that the president herself has spoken of an attack on democracy, the European Parliament and the European Union system”, Pablo del Amo, a Spanish journalist and coordinator of the outlet Deciphering the War, which analyzes international politics, tells El Comercio.

He points out that the scandal has led to talk of the problems of the EP as an institution in itself. Apart from the investigation that is being initiated in said EU institution, there has also been an increase in the initiatives of MEPs and other entities in Brussels calling for changes in the institution, in the sense of greater transparency and thorough accountability.

Members of the European Parliament attend the opening session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 12, 2022. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP)

Members of the European Parliament attend the opening session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 12, 2022. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP) (FREDERICK FLORIN /)

There are many experts saying that there is a culture of impunity in the institution and that the issue of lobbies should be much more closely monitored. There have been very harsh critics from Brussels saying that this case shows that money pays for power and will in the European Union. Many talk about the worst corruption scandal in the European Parliament and in the European Unionadds Del Amo.

Enrique Banús, director of the Institute of European Studies of the University of Piura, emphasizes the blow that the case represents for the reputation and credibility of the European Parliament, the only body of the European Union made up of deputies directly elected in the 27 states that make up the block.

It is a very serious matter because up to now the European Parliament has not had such strong cases. There has always been criticism of the European Parliament, it has been said that it is very big, that it consumes a lot of funds, many people have affirmed that it is a kind of elephant that is not good for that much either. But there had been no notorious cases of corruption”, he points out.

The scandal also shakes the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, to which Kaili and, previously, Panzeri belonged.

Although Greek politics had been away from the group for some time, Del Amo recalls that now criticism is intensifying towards that group because it has not linked MEPs or politicians from other groups to the scandal. “There is a fairly strong debate and obviously there are going to be harsh consequences”.

Actions before the scandal

As investigations continue, it is clear in Strasbourg that the most important thing is to act quickly and show that concrete action will be taken. MEPs are proposing to strengthen internal controls on this type of behavior and that all those involved pay for this scandal.

The Soccer World Cup is held in Qatar.  (Photo: Agencies)

The Soccer World Cup is held in Qatar. (Photo: Agencies)

I think the authorities have reacted quickly. Kaili has been removed as vice president of Parliament, they cannot do much more either, it is not certain that they can force her resignation as parliamentariansays Banus.

He adds that another edge of the case makes it necessary to see how Qatar and, later, the governments of the bloc respond. “Although, for the moment, this is a conflict in the European Parliament, I suppose that everyone is interested in containing the case because a conflict with a Gulf country that is one of the substitutes for Russian gas is not convenient for them. It is a very bad time for this matter”, comments the expert, who points out that if there are more members of Parliament involved, the case will be more difficult to manage.

For his part, Del Amo points out that it is not surprising that the country involved in the scandal is Qatar, because “There have been investigations that show that there was bribery and corruption for the award of the World Cup, in addition to everything related to the death of workers in stadiums, labor rights, LGTBI rights, etc..”.

Qatar is a country that in itself is the target of much criticism. Obviously I think that is why they put the lobby in the MEPs and in Brussels to try to launder their image. And, beyond that, there is also talk of China, Russia and other countries that could have lobbied in their favor in the European Parliament and in Europe. It is the lobbyist system that is being questioned“, Add.

Source: Elcomercio

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