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Qatar involved | Suspicions of corruption splash the European Parliament



(Brussels) A Greek vice-president and an ex-Italian MEP arrested: the European Parliament is splashed by suspicions of corruption involving Qatar which led to a large operation by the Belgian police on Friday 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; M’s companionme Kaili Francesco Giorgi, who is a parliamentary assistant, as well as an NGO director, Italian trade union leader Luca Visentini and 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 or 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 The evening and the Flemish weekly knock.

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 prosecution 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.

Half a million in cash

The police operation gave rise to 16 searches in total in various municipalities of the Belgian capital, where the European Parliament has its headquarters.


The seat of the European Parliament, in Brussels

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 employers” for better remuneration and more mobility in the workplace.

In a succinct message on its website, the ITUC 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”.

Deaths from construction sites

This 44-year-old former TV presenter, who is one of the 14 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 Soccer 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”, also declared Eva Kaili to the gallery of the European Parliament on 22 November.

“Qatar is a leader in labor rights,” she said.

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 dead 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 fifty fatal work accidents of employees over one year, in 2020, and 500 serious injuries. However, she noted the lack of available data.

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