Crime & Justice

European Parliament VP in custody amid corruption probe

Brussels, Dec 11 (EFE).- A judge in Belgium on Sunday charged four people who were detained by police this week as part of an investigation into money laundering and corruption, prosecutors said.

Two other detainees have been released, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office added, without naming any of the people involved.

The Prosecutor’s Office also said that the home of a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) was searched on Saturday night, which according to local media belongs to Belgian Social Democrat Marc Tarabella.

European Parliament vice president Eva Kaili, the other MEP implicated in the probe, has been suspended and stripped of her powers in the wake of her arrest for her alleged involvement in a criminal organization engaged in corruption and money laundering linked to an unnamed “Gulf” nation, which many media outlets have identified as World Cup hosts Qatar.

Belgian media on Sunday reported that Kaili was among the four who have been charged, along with her advisor Francesco Giorgi, former MEP and Italian Social Democrat Pier Antonio Panzeri, as well as an unnamed Brussels lobbyist.

Meanwhile, a court in the northern Italian city of Brescia has ordered the arrests of Maria Colleoni and Silvia Panzeri, Panzeri’s wife and daughter, as one of the most significant corruption scandals at the European Parliament in years spreads beyond Belgium’s borders.

“In light of the ongoing investigations by the Belgian authorities, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola has decided to suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties, and tasks delegated to Eva Kaili in her capacity as vice-president of the European Parliament,” a spokesperson told Efe on Saturday evening.

The Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, to which Kaili belonged, has also suspended her, the S&D Group said on Twitter.

In a post to Twitter, Metsola said that the European Parliament “stands firmly against corruption.”

“At this stage, we cannot comment on any ongoing investigations except to confirm that we have and will cooperate fully with all relevant law enforcement and judicial authorities.

“We’ll do all we can to assist the course of justice.”

On Friday, Belgian police conducted 16 property searches and made multiple arrests after months-long investigations into allegations that an unnamed “Gulf” country was trying to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament.

“This is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament,” the prosecutor’s office has said.

Computer equipment, mobile phones, and some 600,000 euros in cash were confiscated by police officers during house searches. EFE


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