Officials in Greece on Monday said they had frozen the assets of a European Parliament vice president, Eva Kaili, after her arrest by Belgian police on corruption charges.
Police were investigating allegations that figures working for World Cup host Qatar had paid hefty bribes to European politicians for influencing policy debate.
What we know about the arrest of Eva Kaili
Police carried out raids at 16 houses in and around Brussels and seized €600,000 ($631,800) on Friday as part of the probe, which has led to calls for more oversight of European policymaking.
Prosecutors said four people had been arrested and charged with “participation in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption.”
Kaili, a 44-year-old former television presenter, was charged with corruption on Sunday in Brussels. She has spoken publicly in support of Qatar’s recent labor reforms and was reportedly detained after Belgian investigators found “bags of cash” in her home.
The European Parliament said at the weekend that Kaili had been suspended from her duties, most notably that of representing the parliament’s President Roberta Metsola in the Middle East. The Greek socialist PASOK party, of which Kaili is a member, said it was expelling her.
How EU figures have reacted to the allegations
The claims of bribery have shaken the EU legislature and led to calls for the institutions to be investigated to root out foreign influence.
“Certainly the news is very worrisome,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he arrived at a meeting of foreign ministers. He added that no officials from the bloc’s diplomatic service or overseas missions had been implicated.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the allegations were “of utmost concern, very serious.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the “full force of law” must be used in the case. “This is about the credibility of Europe, so this has to trigger consequences in various areas,” she said.
Vitor Teixeira, a senior policy officer at Transparency International, said the investigation so far had shown that the scandal was widespread.
“I mean, there’s a slew of different individuals in different positions. So I would definitely not be surprised if there are more people involved as the days go by,” he told DW, adding: “It’s a very serious situation that we’re living and it is unprecedented for the last 20 years at least.”
For many years, Teixeira pointed out, Transparency International has been saying that the European Parliament has “subpar integrity and anti-fraud rules.” But “to a large extent we have been ignored,” he noted.
The parliament’s president Metsola was set to address EU parliamentarians gathering in the eastern French city of Strasbourg later on Monday. She was expected to meet with top-ranking parliamentarians to thrash out a response to the allegations.
rc/rt (AFP, Reuters)
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