Home News understand everything in the investigation that agitates Brussels

understand everything in the investigation that agitates Brussels

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The case has shaken the European Parliament since Friday. Five people were arrested on Friday December 9, including a Greek vice-president and a former Italian MEP as part of an anti-corruption operation by the Belgian police in the European Parliament, in connection with Qatar. Elected officials and NGOs are calling for an urgent debate on improving the rules of ethics in this major EU institution. “L’Obs” takes stock.

• Five arrests on Friday

Five people were arrested in Brussels on Friday after at least 16 searches in an investigation into suspicions of money payments “consequent” by a Gulf country to influence the decisions of MEPs. The federal prosecutor’s office did not name the country, but a judicial source familiar with the matter confirmed to AFP that it was Qatar, as revealed by the media “Le Soir” and Knack.

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According to information confirmed to AFP, at least three suspects arrested on Friday are Italians or of Italian origin: the former socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri (who sat from 2004 to 2019), the secretary general of the Trade Union Confederation (CSI) Luca Visentini, as well as Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant from the S&D group, companion of Eva Kaili.

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On Saturday, the hearings of five suspects continued in Brussels, according to a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office. A possible placement in pre-trial detention by the investigating judge must be decided within 48 hours after the arrest, ie Sunday at the latest.

In addition to the five in Belgium, there were two arrests in Italy, an Italian government source confirmed to AFP in Rome on Saturday. This is the wife and daughter of Pier-Antonio Panzeri.

• A vice-president of Parliament among those arrested

The case took on an additional dimension when the identity of the fifth person arrested on Friday evening was confirmed. Greek MEP Eva Kaili is a 44-year-old former TV presenter who has become a figure of social democracy in her country. She also has the title of Vice-President of the European Parliament like 13 other elected officials.

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She was immediately dismissed from the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal), which would also like to see her give up her seat in the European Parliament. The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European assembly announced its suspension ” with immediate effect “. On Saturday evening, she was also temporarily withdrawn from the tasks delegated to her by President Roberta Metsola, such as that of representing her in the Middle East region.

Eva Kaili went to Qatar in early November where she welcomed the reforms of the emirate in this sector in the presence of the Qatari Minister of Labor. “Qatar is a leader in labor rights”, had also affirmed the Greek on November 22 at the podium of the European Parliament. Remarks which had caused a stir on the left and came back to the minds of many MEPs at the announcement of his arrest.

• An investigation for “corruption” and “money laundering”

The investigation by Belgian judge Michel Claise targets acts of ” corruption “ and of “money laundering” in an organized gang, according to the prosecution.

On Saturday the Belgian newspaper “L’Echo” affirmed that “several bags full of banknotes” had been discovered at the Brussels home of Eva Kaili, which the police searched after having surprised the father of the elected official himself in possession of a large quantity of cash in ” a suitcase “.

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• Qatar denies any involvement

The affair broke out in the middle of the 2022 World Cup, while the organizing country must make efforts to defend its decried reputation for respect for human rights, in particular those of workers. “Any allegation of misconduct by the State of Qatar shows serious misinformation”reacted on Saturday a Qatari government official asked by AFP.

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Faced with the investigation, Green and Social Democrat MEPs will oppose the start of negotiations on Monday on visa liberalization for Qataris in the EU. Gathered from Monday in Strasbourg, MEPs were to validate the opening of talks between the European Parliament and EU Member States with a view to finalizing a text facilitating the visa regime for travelers from Qatar and Kuwait. This text had received the green light from the Member States at the end of June, but these suspicions of corruption could well stop it dead.

• “Not an isolated incident”

The case triggered a shock wave in Brussels. French socialists denounced “a serious scandal”while ecologists Michèle Rivasi and David Cormand have pointed “guilty complacency” of some social democrats (S&D) during the debate on Qatar at the last plenary session. The next session, which starts Monday in Strasbourg, promises to be hectic. French MEP Manon Aubry (radical left) demanded a new debate on the same subject, castigating Saturday “the aggressive lobbying of Qatar”.

“This is not an isolated incident”reacted the organization Transparency International the day after the police operation. “For several decades, Parliament has allowed a culture of impunity to develop […] and a total absence of independent ethical control”. This control in the institution is “defective”added on Twitter Alberto Alemanno, professor of law at the College of Europe in Bruges.

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