Belgian police search an office of the European Parliament in the context of ‘Qatargate’

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Brussels defends the creation of a common body to ensure ethics and transparency rules after the scandal of alleged bribes by the Gulf country to MEPs

The ‘Qatargate’ continues to spark talks in Brussels, which see with “great concern” the implications of the alleged Qatari bribery plot to influence the political and economic decisions of the European Parliament. Following the arrest of the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, and the indictment of three other individuals in the context of this investigation, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von del Leyen, assured this Monday that a “clear and is a strong” response needed” to restore public confidence in the European institutions. And part of that solution could lie in the creation of a common independent body to ensure ethical and transparency rules within the European Union (EU).

There is no doubt that the European Parliament is facing dark days. The anti-corruption police searched one of its offices on Monday and collected information from ten computers. Meanwhile, during the plenary session in Strasbourg, President Roberta Metsola expressed her “anger” and “sadness” over the alleged case of corruption affecting the institution. “Third countries have used trade unions, NGOs and members of the European Parliament as weapons to undermine our institution. Its plans have failed,” he assured.

He has also defended that the European Parliament will continue to support all ongoing investigations. “There will be no impunity. We will conduct an internal investigation and we will not sweep anything under the rug.” In addition, it has announced that it will promote reforms to improve transparency and control within the European institution.

Faced with the ‘Qatargate’ scandal, the European Parliament has decided to return the issues related to the Gulf country that were to be voted on in plenary to the corresponding committees, including the proposal to exempt Qatar from visas. Metsola also convened an extraordinary meeting of the Chairman’s Council to remove Vice President Kaili, who has already been suspended from office, and “protect the integrity of this chamber.”

For its part, the European Socialist Group – to which the majority of the persons under investigation belong – has announced that it will act as an injured party in the judicial process. “The guilty must pay before Justice and we must guarantee that this does not happen again,” stressed the leader, Iratxe García.

Also this Monday, the Greek Anti-Money Laundering Authority reported that it had frozen the bank accounts, vaults, businesses and financial assets of Vice President Kaili and her family.

During the development of the investigation, which took four months of work, the Belgian police carried out 16 house searches in Brussels and seized up to 750,000 euros. Most of that money – 600,000 euros – is said to have been seized at the home of former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri. Another 150,000 were found in bags in Vice President Kaili’s residence. In addition, her father was arrested when he left a hotel in Brussels with a suitcase full of tickets.

Another of those under investigation, Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella, has denied receiving any form of bribe from the Gulf country. He has similarly defended that he “never” received a gift, “I would have denounced them,” he stressed in statements to the Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir’. “I have nothing to hide,” he insisted. The government of Qatar itself has also denied any involvement in the case.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, they fear that this conspiracy is just “the tip of the iceberg.” This has been stated by EU Transparency International’s head of political advocacy, Nicholas Aiossa, who has defended that “this only comes to light given the number of MEPs supposedly involved”. For example, in 2011 British journalists posed as lobbyists and managed to persuade three MEPs to accept large sums of money to introduce legislative changes. The three politicians were prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms.

Source: La Verdad

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