| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

European Parliament acts on lawmaker accused in Qatar graft probe

After she and others were charged with crimes in connection with claims that Qatar showered them with cash and gifts to sway their decisions, the European Parliament moved to remove one of its members from her position as vice president on Monday.

One of the 14 vice presidents of the parliament and one of four people detained and accused in Belgium over the weekend, Eva Kaili, was one of the primary suspects in the case whose assets were frozen by Greece on Monday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Kaili’s office did not respond to a request for a comment. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

Belgian prosecutors searched 19 homes and the offices of the parliament from Friday to Monday, seizing computers, mobile phones and several hundred thousands of euros at the home of one suspect, in a flat belonging to an EU lawmaker and in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room.

The four unnamed suspects have been charged with “participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption”, prosecutors said.

The situation is especially difficult for the parliament, which has positioned itself as Brussels’ moral compass by passing resolutions denouncing human rights violations worldwide and criticizing EU states. Germany claimed that it endangered Europe’s credibility.

Last month, some European diplomats told Reuters that there was growing pressure to preserve good relations with Qatar as the continent approached a winter of energy shortages as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Parliament suspended Kaili from her duties on Saturday. On Monday, as EU lawmakers convened in Strasbourg, the chamber’s president Roberta Metsola said she was launching a procedure to end her role as vice president.

The Greek socialist PASOK party is expelling her from its ranks.

Belgian prosecutors said they had suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state was trying to buy influence in Brussels.

The state was Qatar, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. During the weekend, a Qatari official refuted claims of potential misbehavior.

A proposal to allow Ecuador, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman to travel to the EU without a visa had been scheduled for a vote this week in the European Parliament, but it has since been postponed.

The probe takes place as World Cup host Qatar is under international scrutiny for its record on human rights, notably how it treats migrant workers.

At the beginning of the month-long soccer tournament on Nov. 21, Kaili delivered a speech in the European Parliament where he attacked those who had criticized Qatar and praised the energy-rich Gulf State as “a trailblazer in labor rights.”

  • Reuters