Qatar is accused of having dispensed bribes and substantial gifts to obtain favourable treatment from the European Parliament.
This is according to an investigation by the Brussels judiciary that came to light on 9 December. Those involved are mainly members of the socialist group.
Corruption scandal in the EU Parliament, Qatar’s involvement
The newspaper Le Soir and Knack magazine immediately identified Qatar as the ‘Gulf country’ alluded to by the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office in its document. Which spoke of an investigation for ‘corruption of officials and members of the bodies of the European Communities and foreign states, money laundering and criminal conspiracy’.
While recalling the ‘presumption of innocence’ of the suspects, a number of searches were carried out and important finds of cash emerged.
EU Parliament corruption scandal, those arrested
The main characters of the corruption scandal in the European Parliament are at the moment:
- Eva Kaili, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Greek socialist politician. Even ‘sacks of banknotes’ were found at her home. More money was found in a suitcase carried by her father totalling 1.5 million euro. Through his lawyer, however, he said that he ‘had no knowledge of that money’. Pasok, her party, immediately expelled her and yesterday she was dismissed as vice-president;
- Antonio Panzeri, former PD MEP, in 2019 he founded Fight Impunity, an NGO that for Belgian investigators acted as a smokescreen. He allegedly manoeuvred an extensive bribe system, lavishing large sums of money and luxury gifts from Qatar, but also in favour of Morocco. During the search of his house, a duffel bag containing half a million dollars emerged;
- Francesco Giorgi, Eva Kalili’s companion, is Panzeri’s former assistant. He is allegedly collaborating with investigating judge Michel Classe, who had to postpone all other interrogations to better gather his statements. Intercepted, he would unwittingly lead to the discovery of the money in his partner’s suitcase. He was in charge of the EU’s relations with the Maghreb countries: Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria;
- Niccolò Figà Talamanca, Secretary of the NGO No Peace without Justice. He apparently worked as a lobbyist for Qatar to promote the country image and progress in the field of human rights.
EU Parliament scandal, the NGO involved and the money found
Fighy Impunity was founded in 2019 to address the “need to promote the fight against impunity for grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity”. From the beginning it attacks Egypt on the Regeni case. Saudi Arabia on civil rights. The Iranian regime. At the same time it calls for recognition of the ‘great strides’ of countries such as Qatar and Morocco. Members also include former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, former French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and MEP Cecilia Vikstrom.
The money, all in cash, found by the police in Panzeri and Kaili’s homes was issued in Belgium. This will make it possible to identify the bank where the bribes happened. And thus the bank account and the identity of the person who made the withdrawal,’ say investigators
The reactions to the investigations
“These are the longest days of my career,” said Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, describing herself as “enraged and sorry. It is Europarliament and European democracy that are under attack. We will not cover anything up. We will launch an internal investigation to examine the facts and take measures”.
For EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni: “Very serious reputational damage. The European Parliament has always been the spearhead from the point of view of rights. Shameful and intolerable affair“.
Ursula von der Leyen was also harsh. ‘Extremely worrying accusations, very serious. It is a question of people’s trust in our institutions, and this trust requires the highest standards of independence and integrity. I have already proposed the creation of an independent ethical body to cover all the EU institutions”.
In the meantime Qatar institutional spokesperson denies the accusations. Among them the words of Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: “We reject any attempt to associate ourselves with the investigation”.