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EU Parliament sacks vice president over Gulf country corruption scandal

The parliament voted by 625 to one to fire Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili after Belgian police found 'bags of cash' in her home
European Parliament vice president, Greek socialist Eva Kaili, is seen at the European Parliament in Brussels on 7 December 2022 (Reuters)
Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili, who has been stripped of the European Parliament vice president role, pictured at the European Parliament in Brussels on 7 December 2022 (Reuters)

The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to dismiss its vice president over claims that she took bribes from an unnamed Gulf country, as the case spotlights how the European Union handles lobbying by foreign states. 

The EU Parliament voted earlier on Tuesday to strip Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili by 625 to one of her vice president role after Belgian prosecutors arrested her on suspicion of corruption.  

The parliament's president, Robert Metsola, a Conservative MEP, called the vote after reaching an agreement with leaders of the parliament's major political groupings. 

Kaili is one of six people detained by Belgian prosecutors last week on suspected corruption claims.

A judicial source told AFP that Belgian prosecutors had found "bags of cash" in Kaili's home, leading a Belgian source to strip her of parliamentary immunity.  

The Belgian persecutor didn't name a specific Gulf country, but Belgian daily Le Soir claimed Qatari officials attempted to corrupt an Italian Socialist member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019.

A Belgian judicial source also told AFP that investigators believe Qatar was paying off European MEPs to help improve the Gulf state's image. 

The Qatari mission to the EU did not reply to Middle East Eye's previous request for comment.

MEP is 'innocent'

Kaili's lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulous, denied the claims and said his client was "innocent".

"She has nothing to do with Qatar's bribes," Dimitrakopoulous told Greek TV channel Open TV. 

"I am not confirming or denying. There is confidentiality. I have no idea if money was found or how much was found."

The police carried out 16 raids in the Belgian capital, seizing more than $600,000 in cash, IT equipment, and mobile phones.

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In a statement, the Belgian prosecutor said they suspect "a Gulf country of trying to influence economic and political decisions of the European Parliament" by "paying large sums of money or offering substantial gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament".

The highly sensitive investigation has been carried out in secret since July, with authorities looking into corruption and money laundering.

According to Le Soir, the authorities arrested four Italians on Friday: Pier-Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP; Luca Visentini, the current head of the International Trade Union Confederation; the head of an NGO, and an EU parliamentary assistant.

In the lead-up to the World Cup, Kaili had visited Qatar and said it was a "front-runner in labour rights" amid concerns about worker rights abuses.

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