Eva Kaili had praised Qatar over ?labor rights?
A Greek politician who served as one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament was arrested on Friday in Belgium, as part of a massive police probe into alleged bribes offered to EU politicians by World Cup host Qatar.
Belgium's Federal Judicial Police (PJF) have suspected "a Gulf country" of influencing MEPs with "substantial sums of money" or "significant gifts" to third parties with influence on the lawmakers, the Central Anti-Corruption Office said in a statement. Police have confiscated over €600,000 in cash, as well as "computer equipment and cell phones."
Belgian media have identified the Gulf country as Qatar, and one of those detained as Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP who has been as one of the parliament's vice-presidents since January. Kaili, 44, is a former TV presenter who has been a MEP for PASOK, part of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group, since 2014.
Sixteen searches were carried out in several Belgian cities, and four people were taken in for questioning. The operation "targeted in particular parliamentary assistants working within the European Parliament," the prosecutors said.
The Belgian daily Le Soir identified the people detailed as Kaili, her aide F.G, the aide's former boss and ex-MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, and the newly elected secretary-general of the International Trade Union Confederation, Luca Visentini.
Last month, Kaili objected to the EP's resolution condemning Qatar for the death of workers building the World Cup stadiums and "other human rights abuses," calling the Gulf monarchy a "frontrunner in labor rights." She had visited Qatar earlier in November, meeting with its labor minister conveying the EU's wishes for a good tournament.
PASOK has reacted to the news by announcing Kaili's expulsion, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported. The S&D Group said it was "appalled" by the allegations and would "fully cooperate with all investigating authorities." The bloc also requested "the suspension of work on any files and plenary votes regarding the Gulf States, particularly visa liberalization and planned visits."