Eva Kaili, a Vice-President of the European Parliament from Greece, has been placed in detention by Belgian authorities; suspected to be involved in a bribe scandal related to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“Following the latest developments and the investigation of the Belgian authorities into the corruption of European officials, PASOK’s MEP Eva Kaili has been expelled from the party by decision of President Nikos Androulakis,” announced the center-left party.
Eva Kaili and others detained and investigated
According to a report by Le Soir, Kaili and at least four others have been detained by agents of the Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption in Brussels. The arrests are believed to have taken place after the individuals accepted bribes from a “Gulf state”.
It has not been confirmed with certainty who the Gulf state is, but several media outlets have claimed that Qatar is responsible for attempts to bribe MEPs.
One of the individuals who has reportedly been arrested is Luca Visentini, Kaili’s partner and the newly elected General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
Pier-Antonio Panzeri was another name brought up in connection with the investigation. He is a former MEP for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party. The four individuals originally under investigation are all believed to be Italian citizens.
Belgian MEPs Marie Arena and Marc Tarabella have also been named in connection with the investigation. The Belgian police have reportedly sealed their offices, together with Kaili’s.
The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed reports that Kaili’s home was searched late on Friday afternoon. She was also taken in for questioning. In total, 16 properties have been searched by investigators.
Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office said it recovered €600,000 in cash during the searches. The investigators also seized computers and mobile phones for forensic examination.
Police investigating the suspected bribery by Qatar at the European Parliament have found a large amount of cash in her home Belgian daily L’Echo reports.
“Bags of cash found at the home of the European Parliament vice-president,” the paper’s headline reads. It adds Kaili’s father was allegedly found “in possession of a suitcase full of cash and was on the move, having been alerted by his accomplices, as investigators believe.”
A source close to the case told the press that the investigation is centered on alleged attempts by Qatar to corrupt an Italian Socialist who was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019.
Qatar corruption case
Recently, Qatar has come under increased scrutiny as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In 2011, there were concerns raised that Qatar had “bought” the World Cup by bribing FIFA officials.
In May 2011, it was alleged that bribery had been facilitated through Mohammed bin Hammam who was president of the Asian Football Confederation at the time. Qatari officials have always denied allegations of bribery associated with their World Cup bid.
It is unclear whether the ongoing investigation into Kaili and the other European Parliament members is explicitly related to the World Cup corruption scandal.
Kaili’s support for Qatar
On November 21, 2022, Kaili joined other MEPs for a debate in the European Parliament concerning the “Situation of human rights in the context of the FIFA world cup in Qatar”.
During the debate, Kaili addressed her peers saying, “the World Cup in Qatar is proof, actually, of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historical transformation of a country with reforms that inspired the Arab world. I alone said that Qatar is a frontrunner in labor rights, abolishing kafala and reducing minimum wage.”
“Despite the challenges that even European companies are denying to enforce these laws, they committed to a vision by choice, and they opened to the world,” the MEP continued, “Still, some here are calling to discriminate them. They bully them and they accuse everyone who talks to them or engages of corruption. But still, they take their gas. Still, they have their companies profiting billions there.”
MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos told private Contra TV that European lawmakers were shocked by the speech of Kaili and her determination to whitewash Qatar.
“We knew that the Qataris and other Middle East nations have been lobbying the European Parliament. But, lobbyists do not demand such unquestionable public support. They usually ask for more subtle ways to promote their interests, such as during votes. Kaili’s speech was extraordinary.”
Qatar has been heavily criticized for the treatment of its laborers, most of whom are foreign nationals. During the long lead up to the World Cup, scrutiny intensified, especiallsince Qatar’s stadiums were built by tens of thousands of migrant workers.
In 2016, Amnesty International accused companies in Qatar of using forced labor. According to the humanitarian organization, migrant workers were forced to live in squalid accommodations and could not access their passports or wages.
Referring to Western criticism of Qatar, Kaili said “We can promote our values, but we do not have the moral right for lectures to get cheap media attention.”
“They helped us. And they are peace negotiators. They are good neighbours and partners. We can help each other to overcome the shortcomings. They achieved the impossible already,” she added.
EU Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili, a Greek Socialist & Democrat, has been arrested in Belgium, and is a suspect of corruption by Qatar.
Here is her last speech on Qatar, from the 22nd of November 2022: pic.twitter.com/8LBuLErdMG
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) December 9, 2022
Eva Kaili is a 44-year-old Greek politician for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). On 18 January 2022, she was elected as the Vice President of the European Parliament with 454 votes. She has served as a member of the European Parliament since 2014.
Before entering politics Kaili was a newscaster for Mega Channel. She worked as a newscaster between 2004 and 2007. She was also a consultant on Communication Strategy and Public and Foreign Affairs for Greek Pharmaceutical companies and one of the biggest Media Groups between 2012 and 2014.