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AP: EU corruption scandal arrests continue

12-12-2022 |

Four people have been charged with being part of a criminal group, money laundering and corruption in connection with an investigation into suspected influence peddling by a Persian Gulf country at the European Union’s parliament, the Belgian federal prosecutors office said Sunday.

The lobbying scandal, which allegedly involves Qatari officials, has already seen parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili relieved of her duties.

The four are among six people held for questioning after Belgian police launched raids on at least 16 premises across the capital Brussels on Friday. None were named, but at least one is a member of the European Parliament and one a former EU lawmaker. The two others were released.

“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,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Authorities have not identified the Gulf country suspected of offering cash or gifts to officials at the parliament in exchange for political favors, but several members of the assembly and some Belgian media have linked the investigation to Qatar.

In a statement on Twitter, Qatar’s foreign ministry said that the country “rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct. Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed.”

Prosecutors also said that the home of a second EU lawmaker was searched on Saturday evening. The assembly’s president, Roberta Metsola, flew back to Brussels from her home in Malta to be present during the house search, her spokesman said.

Belgian law requires that the EU parliament’s president be present in the case of a search at the home of an elected member, who in most cases have a right to parliamentary immunity.

“The European Parliament and President Metsola stand firmly against corruption, are actively and fully cooperating with law enforcement and judicial authorities to assist the course of justice,” her spokesman said.

He declined to provide further details.

In Italy on Saturday, Article One, a small center-left party, suspended former EU lawmaker Pier-Antonio Panzeri following reports he was caught up in the scandal. His wife and daughter have been taken into custody on a European arrest warrant.

The International Trade Union Confederation declined to comment Friday when asked by The Associated Press about reports that its general secretary, Luca Visentini, was also caught up in the affair. A message on the organization’s website on Sunday said that “ITUC has no further comment on this issue at present, pending further information.”

Source: AP