Belgium police have arrested the Vice President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili. The arrest comes in the wake of an investigation by authorities into suspected bribery of MEPs by an unmanned Gulf state. The Greek politician was taken into custody on Friday, December 9.
The date is ironically designated by the UN as its “international anti-corruption day” and is also marked by the European Parliament.
Detectives searched 16 locations in Brussels on Friday and seized cash worth around €600,000 (£515,000).
Computers and mobile phones were also confiscated and will be examined for their contents.
Investigators suspect that a Gulf state has been trying to influence economic and political decisions of the parliament for several months, according to a statement from the spokesperson for the Belgian federal prosecutor.
The state in question has been accused of targeting aides at the parliament.
“This is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament,” the statement said.
The investigation is part of wider one into criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering.
The Belgian news outlets Knack and Le Soir claim that the Gulf state involved in the bribery scheme is none other than Qatar.
Qatar government officials have denied misconduct and dismissed the claims as unfounded.
A spokesperson told AFP: “We are not aware of any details of an investigation.
“Any claims of misconduct by the State of Qatar are gravely misinformed.”
They added that the country “operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations”.
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola flew from her native Malta to Brussels on Saturday evening to witness the searching of an MEP’s house.
A spokesman for Ms Metsola said she had “decided to suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties and tasks that were delegated to Eva Kaili”.
He added that the European Parliament “stands firmly against corruption” and is “fully cooperating” with investigators.
Ms Kaili has also been suspended from the parliament’s Socialists and Democrats Group and has been expelled from the Greek centre-left Pasok party.
Qatar is currently hosting Fifa’s 2022 World Cup amid continuing controversy over migrant workers’ deaths and its attitudes towards LGBT communities.
However, Ms Kaili has recently staunchly defended the Gulf state’s record on human rights.
She said in a speech last month that Qatar was a “frontrunner in labour rights” for abolishing “kafala”.
The “kafala” system has been compared to modern slavery by human rights groups.
The Greek MEP added: “The World Cup in Qatar is proof, actually, of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historical transformation of a country with reforms that inspired the Arab world.”
She condemned some MEPs for bullying and discriminating against Qatar, saying: “They accuse everyone that talks to them or engages of corruption.”