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Rule of LawGreece

EU corruption scandal: More raids, Kaili's assets frozen

December 12, 2022

After multiple arrests in the probe into alleged bribery, Belgian investigators have searched European Parliament offices. Greece said it was freezing the assets of Eva Kaili, a top MEP implicated in the scandal.

Eva Kaili of the Social Democrats party PASOK
Image: Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Authorities searched offices of the European Parliament on Monday as part of an investigation into alleged corruption, Belgian prosecutors said. 

The investigation concerns allegations that figures working for World Cup host Qatar had paid hefty bribes to European politicians to influence policy debate.

European Parliament vice president, Eva Kaili, and other lawmakers have been implicated in the scandal. 

Kaili was arrested Friday after police allegedly found "bags of cash" in her home.

The purpose of Monday's search "was to seize data," Belgium's public prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Investigators have said they also searched private homes and seized several hundred thousand euros. 

So far, four people have been arrested and charged with "participation in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption," Belgian authorities said. 

Corruption scandal rocks European Union

European Parliament president reacts

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Monday described the scandal as an "attack" on EU democracy. 

"The enemies of democracy, for whom the very existence of this parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing," Metsola told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France. 

She blamed "malign actors linked to autocratic third countries," saying they had "allegedly weaponised NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and members of the European Parliament in an effort to subvert our processes." 

"There will always be some for whom a bag of cash is always worth the risk," Metsola said.

"What is essential is that these people understand that they will get caught, that our services work, and that they will face the full extent of the law, as happened in this case." 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier that the allegations were "of utmost concern, very serious."

Greece freezes Kaili's assets

Officials in Greece on Monday said they had frozen the assets of Kaili after her arrest by Belgian police on corruption charges.

Kaili, a 44-year-old former television presenter, was charged with corruption on Sunday in Brussels.

She has spoken publicly in support of Qatar's recent labor reforms.

Belgium: MEP Eva Kaili arrested

The European Parliament said late Saturday that Kaili had been suspended from her duties, most notably that of representing the parliament's president, Metsola, in the Middle East.

The Greek socialist PASOK party, of which Kaili is a member, said it was expelling her.

How other EU figures have reacted to the allegations

The claims of bribery have shaken the EU legislature and led to calls for the institutions to be investigated to root out foreign influence.

"Certainly the news is very worrisome," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he arrived at a meeting of foreign ministers. He added that no officials from the bloc's diplomatic service or overseas missions had been implicated.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the "full force of law" must be used in the case. "This is about the credibility of Europe, so this has to trigger consequences in various areas," she said.

Vitor Teixeira, a senior policy officer at Transparency International, said the investigation so far had shown that the scandal was widespread. 

 "I mean, there's a slew of different individuals in different positions. So I would definitely not be surprised if there are more people involved as the days go by," he told DW, adding: "It's a very serious situation that we're living and it is unprecedented for the last 20 years at least." 

For many years, Teixeira pointed out, Transparency International has been saying that the European Parliament has "subpar integrity and anti-fraud rules." But "to a large extent we have been ignored," he noted. 

fb, rc/rt (AFP, Reuters)