MEP denies Qatar bribery after €1m seized

Greek MEP Eva Kaili

© APA | Greek MEP Eva Kaili

# 13 December 2022 17:06 (UTC +04:00)

Greek MEP Eva Kaili has denied involvement in an alleged bribery scandal involving World Cup host Qatar at the European Parliament, APA reports citing BBC.

She is one of four suspects charged after Belgian investigators found large sums of cash in homes and a suitcase.

MEPs have voted - by 625 to one - to strip Ms. Kaili of her role as one of its 14 vice presidents.

Parliament leader Roberta Metsola has spoken of "difficult days for European democracy."

Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

"[Eva Kaili] declares her innocence and that she has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar," her lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told Greek TV on Tuesday.

Prosecutors carried out a string of searches over several days and said cash worth about €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000) had been found at the home of one suspect, €150,000 at the flat of an MEP, and several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room.

Belgian police released a photo on Tuesday showing piles of notes in €200, €50, €20, and €10 denominations. Reports said it added up to €1.5m (£1.3m).

Asked if money had been found at Ms. Kaili's apartment, her lawyer said: "I have no idea if any money was found or how much was found."

The suspects arrested by Belgian police have been charged with "participation in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption," prosecutors said on Sunday. They will appear before a pre-trial court on Wednesday.

The three others are all thought to be Italians, including Pier Antonio Panzeri, an Italian former MEP who now runs a human rights group.

The allegations have cast a shadow over the role of lobbying groups at the European Parliament. A recommendation to allow visa-free travel to the EU for Qataris was set to be voted on by MEPs this week but has now been shelved.

Searches have taken place in Italy as well as in Brussels. Since Friday, the IT resources of 10 parliamentary employees have been "frozen" to prevent the disappearance of data necessary for the investigation.

Parliament, sitting in Strasbourg, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to strip Ms. Kaili of her role as vice president.

She has also been suspended from the parliament's Socialists and Democrats Group and expelled from the Greek center-left Pasok party.

Greek authorities have frozen assets belonging to her, her husband and immediate family members.

The activities of a property company set up about two weeks ago by the MEP and her husband in Athens have also been frozen.