Eva Kaili, vice president of the European Parliament, and three other individuals were charged with corruption by Belgian prosecutors on Sunday as part of a significant investigation into an alleged Qatari influence campaign.
Greek MEP Kaili was detained on Friday as part of a corruption investigation by Belgian authorities into alleged illegal lobbying by the Persian Gulf nation, which is currently hosting the World Cup of football.
According to a statement released on Sunday by the federal prosecutor's office in Belgium, "it is suspected that third parties in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence Parliament's decisions."
Four of the six people arrested on Friday have been accused with "participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.," the prosecutor stated without naming any specific people. It stated that the other two had been released.
According to the Belgian publication L'Echo and other media, Kaili is one of those accused.
According to Le Soir, Kaili's partner, Francesco Giorgi, is also one of the four people accused. Giorgi founded the non-profit organization Fight Impunity and serves as another MEP's parliamentary assistant.
According to Le Soir, the case also included Pier Antonio Panzeri, the president of Fight Impunity and a former Italian MEP. It stated that an unknown lobbyist was also charged. The four will continue to be held in custody.
According to the reports, Luca Visentini, a trade union leader, and Kaili's father, who had both been arrested in connection with the investigation, were both freed.
After being detained in connection with the investigation, Kaili was relieved of her duties as vice president of the European Parliament, according to a representative for Roberta Metsola, the president of the Parliament.
Kaili, a Socialist & Democrat from the center-left, is one of the 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament and a significant participant in the body. She has become one of the most outspoken supporters of Qatar, recently referring to it as a "frontrunner in labor rights" after meeting with the labor minister of the country, despite grave concerns on the part of the international community regarding the working conditions of stadium construction workers. The Middle East is one of her vice president's responsibilities.
Kaili was expelled from the S&D group in the Parliament after her detention on Friday. She was also kicked out of Greece's Pasok center-left party.
In the European Parliament, Panzeri also belonged to the S&D group, where he worked until 2019. As Qatar prepares to host the World Cup, the organization has come under fire for taking a soft line on the country. According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Italian police detained Panzeri's wife and daughter on Friday as part of the probe.
The residence of Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella was searched on Saturday night as part of the investigation. Tarabella, who was not detained, serves as co-chair of the institution's sports group and vice chair of the delegation representing the European Parliament's interests in ties with the Arab Peninsula.
Investigators in Brussels believe that Qatar influenced the Parliament's economic and political policies using gifts and money.
According to Metsola's spokeswoman, the European Parliament President and the body "firmly against corruption, are actively and fully cooperating with law enforcement and judicial authorities to assist the course of justice."
According to AFP, which cited parliamentary sources, Metsola has scheduled a meeting of the heads of the political parties in the assembly on Monday to discuss the corruption inquiry.
By fLEXI tEAM