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Europe in Turmoil Over Bribery Scandal; Qatar Denies Involvement

Qatar EU scandal
Four lawmakers have been arrested with bribe charges related to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Credit: FIFA

On Sunday, Qatar officially denied any involvement in the bribes scandal that has rocked Europe and led to the arrest of members of European Parliament.

“The State of Qatar categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with any accusations of misconduct,” a statement by the Qatar Mission to the EU says.

“Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed

“The State of Qatar works through institution-to-institution engagement and operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations,” the statement reads.

Four lawmakers arrested over Qatar bribes scandal

Greek MEP Eva Kaili is one of the four people who have been placed under arrest by a Brussels federal prosecutor on Sunday in the Qatar corruption scandal.

The four have been charged with money laundering, corruption, and participating in a criminal organization.

In an announcement that does not mention specific names, the Brussels federal prosecutor’s office said that four people were placed under arrest for the above charges out of six detained during raids by the federal police on Friday.

“There are suspicions that individuals in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament were paid large sums or offered substantial gifts to influence the decisions of the Parliament,” the announcement said.

Two of the six people detained were released, including Kaili’s father who was caught leaving the hotel with a suitcase full of cash. The home of a second MEP was raided on Saturday night, the announcement noted, adding that no further information will be released at this time to facilitate the investigation.

Kaili was detained on Friday as part of a major corruption probe by Belgian authorities into an alleged illicit influence campaign by Qatar.

Authorities in Greece announced on Monday the freezing of all assets in Greece owned by Kaili, her partner, and her immediate family.

Outrage in Europe over the Qatar corruption scandal

The announcement came amid mounting outrage over the allegations and calls for action to tackle corruption inside the European Parliament.

Watchdogs and opposition MEPs said the bribery investigation could represent one of the biggest corruption scandals in European Parliament history.

Allegations of corruption against the vice-president of the European Parliament are of the “utmost concern,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

“The allegations are of utmost concern, very serious,” she told reporters, reiterating that she was also proposing the creation of an independent ethics body to cover EU institutions.

Arrests over alleged corruption at the European Parliament are “very, very worrisome,” the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has said.

“Certainly the news is very, very worrisome,” Borrell told reporters on Monday as he arrived at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“We are facing some events, some facts, that certainly worry me as a former president of the European Parliament,” Borrell said.

Borrell said the investigation did not target anyone from the EU’s diplomatic service.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the “full force of law” had to be brought to bear in the case. “This is about the credibility of Europe, so this has to trigger consequences in various areas,” she said.

“This is a scandal that we need to get to the bottom of so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said, calling for a “full and transparent investigation.”

“Over many decades, the Parliament has allowed a culture of impunity to develop, with a combination of lax financial rules and controls and a complete lack of independent (or indeed any) ethics oversight,” Transparency International’s director, Michiel van Hulten, told AFP.

The European Parliament’s Greens group called for a full investigation into allegations of bribery by Qatar.

“We will not accept business as usual,” the group said. “We must strengthen our rules so this cannot happen again.”

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