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  • Aurora Proietti

Qatar corruption scandal threatens European Institution

Qatar is no longer renowned because of the World Cup. During the most recent European summit of the year, the discussion was marked by the so-called 'Qatargate' scandal, a case of alleged corruption within the European Parliament.

On Saturday (10) the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office announced that four members of the European Parliament were arrested, including the current vice president of the European Parliament, the Greek Eva Kaili, and the former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri, both representatives of centre-left parties. The formal charges are of conspiracy, money laundering, and corruption. The prosecution suspects that "people inside the European Parliament have been paid large sums of money or have received significant gifts to influence the decisions of the European Parliament” regarding Qatar, but the investigations are still ongoing. According to the Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, and the Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, Qatar has involved several people from the European Parliament to improve its image in the West and European institutions.

Along with MEP Antonio Panzeri, who later moved to Article One, his assistant in the past legislature Francesco Giorgi, and Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, director of the NGO No Peace Without Justice which operates in Brussels, were also arrested.

About 20,000 euros in cash were seized from Francesco Giorgi, parliamentary assistant, and companion of the now former vice president of the European Parliament Eva Kaili. However, the mountain of cash seized so far for the ‘Qatargate’ case increased beyond the million and a half euros reached so far. In total, as regards the former Greek vice-president of the Eurochamber, Eva Kaili, the first estimates speak of 750,000 euros seized in cash. 150 thousand euros collected in some "bags of banknotes" were found in the Brussels house of the former vice president of the European Parliament, while 600 thousand euros were in a suitcase in the possession of her father who was arrested while he was leaving a Brussels hotel.

After repeated allegations, Kaili "was unaware of the money" found at her home, her lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told AFP. The former vice president of the Euro chamber "did not know of the existence of this money", assured the lawyer.

The European Parliament has voted to suspend Kaili from the role of vice-president of the European Parliament and Greece has decided to freeze all the assets of the MEP. Subsequently, Kaili was relieved of her post and expelled from the Greek political party of which she was a member.

Moreover, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, stated more MEP’s involved in the corruption scandal could lose immunity, however the names haven't been identified yet. Up until now, 44-year-old Eva Kaili is the only one whose immunity has been stripped of. Nonetheless, investigations are still ongoing to establish what happened. What is certain is that the case has reopened the debate on the permeability of the European Parliament to attempts at external influence by lobbies and foreign countries.

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