Greek MEP Eva Kaili denied involvement in an alleged bribery scandal involving World Cup host Qatar at the European Parliament.
She is one of four suspects charged after Belgian investigators found large sums in cash in homes and a suitcase.
MEPs have voted – by 625 to one – to strip Kaili of her role as one of its 14 vice presidents.
Parliament leader Roberta Metsola has spoken of “difficult days for European democracy”.
“[Eva Kaili] declares her innocence and that she has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar,” her lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told Greek TV on Tuesday.
Kaili denies involvement in the Qatar scandal
“She has nothing to do with financing from Qatar, nothing, explicitly and unequivocally,” Dimitrakopoulos told Open TV in a first public comment.
Prosecutors carried out a string of searches over several days and said cash worth about €600,000 ($632,000) had been found at the home of one suspect, €150,000 at the flat of an MEP, and several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room.
The activities of a property company set up about two weeks ago by the MEP and her husband in Athens have also been frozen.
Belgian police released a photo on Tuesday showing piles of notes in €200, €50, €20 and €10 denominations. Reports said it added up to €1.5 million ($1.7 million).
— Louis Colart (@LouisColart) December 13, 2022
Asked if money had been found at Kaili’s apartment, her lawyer said, “I have no idea if any money was found or how much was found.”
The Greek authorities on Monday froze Kaili’s assets in her homeland, including property, bank accounts, and shares in companies among other things.
The suspects arrested by Belgian police have been charged with “participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption,” prosecutors said on Sunday. They will appear before a pre-trial court on Wednesday.
The three others are all thought to be Italians, including Pier Antonio Panzeri, an Italian former MEP who now runs a human rights group.
Qatar denies involvement in the scandal
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.
According to the statement, “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.