“In view of the ongoing judicial investigations by the Belgian authorities, President Metsola has decided to suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties and tasks conferred on Eva Kaili in her capacity as Vice-President of the European Parliament,” said a spokesman for Metsola. Only parliament itself can decide to remove Kaili from the post of vice-president.
The Belgian police had on Friday in Brussels on suspicion of “gang corruption and money laundering”
at least five people arrested. In addition to Kaili, who was previously one of the 14 Vice-Presidents of Parliament, four Italians were arrested, including Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi, who is a parliamentary assistant for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. It is about the suspicion that a Gulf state – presumably the World Cup host country Qatar – is said to have tried to influence the decisions of the EU Parliament with considerable sums of money and gifts.
Pre-trial detention for MEPs
Meanwhile, Kaili and three other suspects have been taken into custody. In addition, the apartment of another MEP was searched, as the public prosecutor in Brussels announced. Because of the allegations in connection with the World Cup host country Qatar, there were calls for political consequences and reforms, Transparency International criticized a “culture of impunity”.
EU Vice President Katarina Barley called on Kaili to resign on Saturday. “Investigations by the public prosecutor always come to the point where you say, as a politician, you can no longer represent an institution,” said the SPD MP on German television. “In this respect, we expect her to resign of her own accord.” Barley and Kaili both belong to the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
Sacks of banknotes found
According to information from the Belgian newspaper “L’Echo”, the investigators had found “several sacks full of banknotes” in Kaili’s apartment. The police therefore conducted a search of the premises after finding the 44-year-old’s father with a large amount of cash in “a suitcase”.
Pier Antonio Panzeri, former Social Democrat MEP and current head of the non-governmental organization Fight Impunity, and the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Luca Visentini, were also arrested. The French news agency AFP in Rome also confirmed two further arrests from circles in the Italian government: Affected are Panzeris’ wife and daughter.
According to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, the police confiscated cash amounting to around 600,000 euros as well as data carriers and mobile phones during the raids, which are now being evaluated. According to a spokesman for the investigative authority in Brussels, the five suspects were interrogated on Saturday. Those arrested are due to testify before a Belgian judge this Sunday.
Qatar is being targeted by investigators
The public prosecutor also said that a “Gulf state” was suspected of “influencing economic and political decisions of the European Parliament” by “paying significant sums of money or giving away substantial gifts”. Circles familiar with the investigation have confirmed media reports that the Gulf state is Qatar. When asked by the AFP news agency, a Qatari government official said his country was “not aware of any details about an investigation”. Any “allegation of wrongdoing by the State of Qatar” is unfounded.
German MEPs expressed their outrage at the events. He was “stunned that apparently leading members of the European Parliament let themselves be bought for large sums of money in order to campaign politically for states that trample on human and occupational safety rights,” said CDU MEP Dennis Radtke. The chairman of the Europe Committee in the German Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter, said that if the allegations were true – which there is some evidence for – Kaili would “not only have to withdraw from the presidency of the EU Parliament, but also resign her mandate”.
Pasok party violates Kaili
Kaili’s own party, Pasok, also called on Kaili to withdraw from the European Parliament. A member of the Greek Socialist Party said the party was “pressuring for Ms Kaili to give up her parliamentary seat”. The former TV presenter had already been expelled from the party on Friday. In addition, the Social Democratic Group in the European Parliament suspended Kaili’s membership.
Former TV presenter Kaili said in the European Parliament on November 22 that the soccer World Cup in Qatar was “concrete proof of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world”. Qatar is “a leader in labor rights”. Shortly before the speech, Kaili met with Qatari Labor Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri in Qatar. In a video message, she described the World Cup as a “great instrument for political changes and reforms”.
For years, non-governmental organizations have accused Qatar of violating the human rights of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Asia and Africa. The European Parliament also criticized the World Cup award to the desert state just two weeks ago and referred to “credible allegations of bribery and corruption”. Reports of mistreatment of migrant workers are overshadowing the current World Cup in Qatar.
kle/ack (afp, efe, dpa)