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The European Parliament splashed by suspicions of corruption involving Qatar

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Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili, one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament, was arrested Friday evening in Brussels in an investigation into suspicions of corruption involving Qatar. Four other arrests had already taken place in the Belgian capital in the morning in the same case.

A Greek vice-president and a former Italian MEP arrested: the European Parliament is splashed with suspicions of corruption involving Qatar. This led to a large operation by the Belgian police on Friday December 9 in Brussels.

In the evening, the Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili, who is one of the vice-presidents of the assembly, was arrested at her home in Brussels to be heard, a source familiar with the matter told AFP, confirming press information. This is the fifth arrest of the day.

Four men were arrested in the morning: Eva Kaili’s companion, Francesco Giorgi, who is a parliamentary assistant, as well as an NGO director, the Italian trade union leader Luca Visentini and the former MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, who served from 2004 to 2019.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office announced the police operation without identifying the suspects, nor naming the “Gulf country” on which these suspicions of corruption weigh. But the same source familiar with the matter confirmed to AFP that it was Qatar, as revealed in a joint investigation by the French-language newspaper Le Soir and the Flemish weekly Knack.

The investigation, piloted for four months by a Brussels financial judge, targets facts of “corruption” and “money laundering” in an organized gang, underlined the federal prosecutor’s office in a press release.

This Gulf country is suspected of “influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, by paying large sums of money or by offering significant gifts”, he continues. As for the beneficiaries, they are personalities having “a significant political and/or strategic position” within Parliament.

Sixteen searches

The police operation gave rise to sixteen searches in total in various municipalities of the Belgian capital, where the European Parliament has its headquarters.

During the operation, the police got their hands on “about 600,000 euros in cash”, as well as “computer equipment and mobile phones” whose contents will be analyzed. The gifts or benefits offered could be linked to Qatar’s desire to improve its maligned reputation for human rights and the treatment of foreign workers.

Among those arrested, the secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC, or Ituc in English), Luca Visentini, spoke again this week of the situation of workers in Qatar, in an interview broadcast on Friday by AFP.

This Italian official called in particular to “continue to put pressure on the authorities and the employers” for better remuneration and more mobility in the workplace. In a succinct message on its site, the CSI said it was “aware of the information circulating in the press”, but declined to comment “at this stage”.

As for the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal) of which Eva Kaili was a member, he announced in the evening in Athens that she was “dismissed”. This 44-year-old former TV presenter, who is one of the fourteen vice-presidents of the European Parliament, had met in Qatar shortly before the start of the World Cup with the Qatari Minister of Labor, Ali bin Samikh Al Marri.

On this occasion, the Greek elected official welcomed, on behalf of the EU, Qatar’s commitment to “pursue labor reforms”, according to a tweet from the Union’s ambassador to Doha, Cristian Tudor.

“Today, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is concrete proof of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world”, Eva Kaili also declared to the gallery of the European Parliament on 22 November. “Qatar is a leader in labor rights,” she said.

Working conditions in Qatar singled out

Qatar, the host country of the 2022 World Cup, has been accused by NGOs of neglecting the working and living conditions of its hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Asia and Africa. In response, Doha has put forward unprecedented reforms to the labor code, welcomed by trade unions, which nevertheless call for more rigorous application.

A figure has caused a lot of ink to flow: that of 6,500 foreigners who have died in Qatar since the awarding of the World Cup in 2010, advanced in February 2021 by the British daily The Guardian.

The Qatari authorities have strongly denied this. And the International Labor Organization (ILO), present in Doha since 2018, has documented 50 fatal work accidents of employees over one year, in 2020, and 500 serious injuries. However, she noted the lack of available data.

With AFP

France 24 Europe Fr Trans

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