European parliament vice president Eva Kaili who was has was arrested in a corruption scandal following an investigation into alleged bribery by FIFA World Cup host Qatar has denied charges.
Bags of cash were found in Eva Kaili's Brussels home. Belgian authorities conducted at least 17 home raids across the city of Brussels, among them was Kaili’s reported Belgian daily L’Echo.
Around €600,000 (£516,000/$632,000) in cash was seized on Friday (December 9) when police in Brussels conducted raids and searched 16 addresses. Computers and mobile phones were also taken.
The report added that Kaili’s father was caught in the act of attempting to flee with a suitcase of cash.
European authorities haven't yet confirmed the implicated country, however Belgian media identified the state as Qatar.
Who is Eva Kaili and how is she involved?
Eva Kaili 44 is a Greek politician, and a member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). She is one of 14 vice presidents of the European parliament.
Vice presidents can stand in for the institution’s president when needed, including overseeing votes. They also have a say in administrative, personnel and organisational powers.
Since her arrest, her political group in the European Parliament, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), suspended her, as did her political party in Greece, the Pasok Movement for Change.
How is Qatar involved?
Belgian prosecutors suspect that third parties within the European Parliament were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence parliament’s decision.
News outlets in Belgium have widely reported that the Gulf country suspected of being behind the scheme is Qatar. However, the E.U. authorities have not named it.
The tournament which has faced major criticism from human rights campaigners because of the country's treatment of migrant workers, criminalisation of homosexuality and lack of women's rights received support from Eva Kaili.
In November this year Kaili joined other MEP's for a debate on the situation of human rights in the context of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
During the debate, Kaili addressed the European parliament 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.”
Kaili met Qatar's Labour Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri prior to the World Cup. “During the meeting, they discussed ways to enhance and develop cooperation in the fields of labor laws.
He close association with the Qatari officials and controversial comments that Qatar is a "frontrunner in labour rights has shocked many members of the European parliament.
MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos had told Contra TV:
“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.”
Who else is involved?
Eva Kaili's partner, parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, as well as a former member of the European Parliament--Pier Antonio Panzeri are allegedly involved.
Others allegedly caught up in the investigation include the head of a Brussels-based union and an unnamed Italian national.
Qatar has denied wrongdoing. Whether there is any connection to the World Cup remains unclear.
But within E.U. institutions, this is being talked about as the biggest scandal in recent memory, with members of the European Parliament voting Tuesday to end Kaili’s term as vice president.
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