EU lawmakers arrested in connection to Qatar corruption scandal

Prosecutors said they had suspected for months that a Gulf state, reportedly World Cup host Qatar, was trying to influence decisions in Brussels.

 European Parliament vice president, Greek socialist Eva Kaili, is seen at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France November 22, 2022 (photo credit: EP/­HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
European Parliament vice president, Greek socialist Eva Kaili, is seen at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France November 22, 2022
(photo credit: EP/­HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Four European lawmakers, including European Parliament vice president Eva Kaili, were arrested on Friday over allegedly receiving money and gifts from a Gulf state to influence decisions in the European Union, accusations that have caused consternation in Brussels.

Prosecutors said they had suspected for months that a Gulf state was trying to influence decisions in Brussels, with one source with knowledge of the case saying that the state was World Cup host Qatar.

A Belgian judge charged the four on Sunday after prosecutors searched 16 houses and seized €600,000 ($631,800) in Brussels on Friday as part of the money laundering and corruption investigation. Six people were initially detained, with two later released, prosecutors said in a statement.

Qatar denies involvment in curruption affair

A Qatari official denied accusations of possible misconduct.

 Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's labor minister, speaks with Greece's Eva Kaili, vice president of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar, October 31, 2022 (credit: TWITTER/MINISTRY OF LABOUR - STATE OF QATAR VIA REUTERS) Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's labor minister, speaks with Greece's Eva Kaili, vice president of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar, October 31, 2022 (credit: TWITTER/MINISTRY OF LABOUR - STATE OF QATAR VIA REUTERS)

"Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed," the official said, adding that Qatar worked through institution-to-institution engagement and in full compliance with international laws.

Following Greek lawmaker Kaili's arrest, the European Parliament said at the weekend it had suspended the powers and duties of its vice president in light of the Belgian investigation. Kaili's socialist PASOK party said in a statement that it was expelling Kaili from its ranks.

EU officials react to Qatar corruption controversey

Prosecutors said they had also searched the home of a second EU lawmaker on Saturday, without detaining anyone. Belgian Socialist party member Marc Tarabella confirmed it was his home and that a computer and mobile phone had been taken.

"The justice system is doing its work of gathering information and investigating, which I find totally normal. I have absolutely nothing to hide and I will respond to all questions of the investigators," he said in a statement.

European Economics Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told Italy's Rai 3 television that the case appeared to be "very serious... if it were confirmed that someone took money to try to influence the opinion of the European Parliament, it will really be one of the most dramatic stories of corruption in recent years," he added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that the allegations against EU lawmakers are of the "utmost concern and very serious."