US media is reporting that, on December 9, 2022, European Parliament Vice-President Evdoxia “Eva” Kaili was detained by Belgian authorities over allegations of illicit lobbying on behalf of Qatar. According to an article by Politico:
A top MEP has been suspended from her party after police launched an investigation into alleged illicit lobbying activities by Qatar, in what threatens to blow up into a major crisis at the heart of the European Union. Belgian police searched 16 homes and detained at least four people in and around Brussels on Friday as part of an inquiry into what prosecutors called “criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.” European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili, from the Greek socialist party Pasok, was said to be among those detained. She was suspended from the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament “with immediate effect, in response to the ongoing investigations,” the EU-level group tweeted late Friday. Kaili was also expelled from the center-left Pasok party in Greece.
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According to additional reporting by DW, the searches were carried out as part of a broader investigation opened in mid-July 2022 into alleged acts of criminal organization, corruption, and money laundering. The searches primarily targeted European Parliamentary Assistants at 14 locations throughout Brussels, and roughly 600,000 euros in cash, cell phones, and computer equipment were seized in the raids.
Qatar, which was not named in the prosecutor’s statement, is accused of targeting officials “with a significant political and/or strategic position” at the Parliament, sending them “substantial amounts of money” and “important gifts.” The statement added:
Given the seriousness of the allegations, until the competent authorities provide relevant information and clarification, we are requesting the suspension of work on any files and plenary votes regarding the Gulf States, particularly visa liberalisation and planned visits.
Kaili, one of the Parliament’s 14 Vice-Presidents, has been serving as an MEP for Greece since 2014. Recently, she called Qatar a “frontrunner in labor rights” after meeting with the country’s labor minister despite international concerns about conditions for stadium construction workers. In a statement, the progressive S&D Group in the European Parliament said it was “appalled by the allegations of corruption in the European institutions” and would “fully cooperate with all investigating authorities.” On December 9, Kaili’s party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), announced it had taken steps to expel her from the party.
Among those also detained by Belgian authorities was Luca Visentini, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation, an umbrella of trade unions working towards improving workers’ rights globally. Other suspects include former Italian S&D MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri.
Qatar employs large numbers of lobbyists to support its political goals globally. In June 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on US officials involved in an ongoing investigation into illegal lobbying on behalf of Qatar. In November 2022, the GIOR reported that Qatar had donated one million euros to flood-stricken footballers in Germany in exchange for favorable reporting.