January 28, 2023

EU ministers said Qatar's investigation into corruption is harming the European Parliament

The European Parliament strips Eva Kayli of her vice-president position in Qatar corruption scandal

  • A Greek politician is one of four people arrested in Belgium
  • Kylie’s lawyer says she denies any wrongdoing
  • Police uncovered the cash in raids, some of it in a bag at a hotel
  • The European Parliament’s role as the bloc’s moral compass is in jeopardy

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Parliament sacked Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili as deputy speaker on Tuesday after she was accused of accepting bribes from Qatar in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Brussels.

Cayley denied any wrongdoing, but European lawmakers acted quickly to impeach her, fearing that the Belgian investigation would severely affect the association’s efforts to present itself as a sound moral compass in a turbulent world.

said Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, while 625 MEPs voted to deprive Kylie of the vice-presidential position, with one vote against and two abstentions.

Kylie, who was being held by the Belgian police, was one of the 14 vice-speakers of parliament.

Over the weekend, Belgian prosecutors charged her and three Italians with participating in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.

A source close to the investigation said it is believed they have siphoned money from Qatar, the current host of the FIFA World Cup. The energy-rich Gulf state has denied any wrongdoing.

A source close to the investigation said police raided several buildings in Brussels, including parliament offices and 19 homes, and discovered about 1.5 million euros ($1.58 million), some of which was hidden in a suitcase in a hotel room.

Kylie’s lawyer in Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said on Tuesday that she is innocent. “It has nothing to do with funding from Qatar, nothing explicit and unequivocal,” he told OpenTV in the first public comment.

However, several MEPs called for the 44-year-old socialist politician to leave the Assembly altogether.

“Given the scale of the corruption scandal, this is the least we can expect from it,” said MEP Manon Aubry, who co-chairs the Left group.

corruption

Countries and right-wing nationalist politicians who have faced criticism from the council said it had lost the moral high ground.

Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, Qatar’s Minister of Labor, speaks with Greek Eva Kaili, Vice President of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar, October 31, 2022 in this photo posted on social media. Twitter / Ministry of Labor – State of Qatar via Reuters

“From now on, the European Parliament will not be able to talk about corruption in an authoritative way,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook.

Jordan Bardella, a member of the European Parliament and head of the far-right National Rally party, said the scandal showed what he called “a mockery” of the EU, “its self-appointed model of virtue and provider of lessons”.

Belgian prosecutors said they have suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state is trying to buy influence in Brussels. Although no country was disclosed by the Public Prosecution, a source with knowledge of the case said it was Qatar.

None of the four people accused have been officially identified, but their names were quickly leaked to the press.

Ignition criticism

According to a source familiar with the case, the other defendants are former EU deputy Pier Antonio Panzieri, Cayley’s partner Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide, and Niccolò Vega Talamanca, general secretary of the Human Rights Campaigns Group.

Calls and emails sent by Reuters to their offices or homes were not answered.

There will be hearings on December 19 and 20 to decide on the request, said Angelo Di Risso, lawyer for Panzieri’s wife Maria Colleoni and adult daughter Silvia, who is seeking extradition from Italy and Belgium as part of the investigation.

“My clients told the judge that they knew nothing about the things being challenged against them and that they had nothing to do with it,” De Risso said.

Kylie was among the young, ambitious Greek politicians who emerged in the debilitating debt crisis that engulfed Greece from 2010 to 2015. Greece’s socialist PASOK party said it would expel her from its ranks.

In a speech in the European Parliament on November 21, at the start of the month-long World Cup, Kylie blasted Qatar’s critics and hailed the energy-rich Gulf state as a “frontrunner on workers’ rights.”

Qatar, which derives its vast wealth from its oil and gas reserves, has come under fire for its human rights record in the run-up to the World Cup, including its treatment of migrant workers.

Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop, Emilio Parodi, Carolina Tagaris, Clement Rossignol, Max Schwartz, Leftris Papadimas, Michelle Kampas, Alain Scharlich and Giselda Fagnoni; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Edmund Blair, Crispian Palmer, and Mark Heinrichs

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