A member of the European Parliament implicated in an alleged corruption scheme involving Qatar will remain in detention until at least next week after his hearing was adjourned by a judge on Wednesday, court officials told the Associated Press.
Eva Kaili, a Greek-European MP and vice-president of the European Union’s governing body, whose mandate was cut short this week by fellow lawmakers, had previously been summoned to appear before a judge in Brussels on Wednesday along with three other people who they were also arrested in connection with the case. Kaili’s lawyers said she denies any involvement in the alleged scandal.
Kaili’s lawyer André Risopoulos said her hearing had been moved to December 22, but declined to provide further details. The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the new date, when a judge will decide whether to keep her in custody.
The police conducted more than 20 raids, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy, as part of an investigation into alleged bribes for political favours. Prosecutors said in a statement they suspect people “in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament have received large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence Parliament’s decisions”.
Prosecutors charged four people, including Kaili, with corruption, participation in a criminal group and money laundering.
Belgian authorities have not identified the Gulf country suspected of offering money or gifts to parliament officials, but several assembly members and some Belgian media have linked the investigation to host of the soccer World Cup, Qatar.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said EU relations with any foreign country implicated in the corruption would be jeopardized if confirmed.
“Trying to influence our decision-making process with corruption, if it is confirmed that this is the case, that it is linked to certain countries, I would not see how it would not have consequences in the relationship,” he said. “First of all, the mistake is made by people who allow themselves to be corrupted. Let me be clear. But it’s not just them. There are always two sides to this”.
Qatar has likely received some favorable reviews in Europe this year, but allegations that European officials were paid to provide them are typically difficult to pin down. However, according to Belgian prosecutors, investigators seized hundreds of thousands of euros from the officials’ homes.
De Croo added that the scandal is proof of the need for “greater scrutiny and greater transparency in the European Parliament”.
“We are partners with the president, Roberta Metsola, to improve the functioning and bring more transparency and to really get to the bottom of the ongoing investigation,” he said.
Discussing the corruption investigation on CBS News Wednesday morning, foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata explained why the European Union took these allegations so seriously.
“Well, they want to be done with the bribery and bribery allegations,” D’Agata said.
“In theory, however, the European Union is highly regarded, and there are certain thresholds that need to be met. And very high up in that is corruption,” he added. “So when there’s the hint, the hint, the allegations of corruption, they want to slam the door really fast. I mean, other MEPs have said, ‘This is a serious threat to European democracy.'”
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, described the allegations as “of the utmost concern” and “very serious” in comments to reporters on Monday.