Kabul: Belgian prosecutors charged four individuals on Sunday for their alleged involvement in a suspected Qatari bribery campaign to influence the European Parliament in a scandal that has rattled European nations.
The four people, who were not named, were accused of corruption, money laundering, and participating in a criminal organization. Sunday’s charges mark the latest turn in a lengthy investigation that publicly unfolded on Friday, when authorities raided 16 homes—uncovering $631,800 in cash—and brought six people in for questioning. Two were later released.
Investigators “have suspected a Gulf country to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. “This is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament.”
Although authorities did not explicitly name Qatar, sources told multiple Belgian and international outlets that authorities were referring to Doha. The New York Times reported that the original six people were Eva Kaili, a vice president of the European Parliament; her father, Alexandros; her partner, Francesco Giorgi; Luca Visentini, chief of the International Trade Union Confederation; Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of the European Parliament; and an unidentified sixth person.
The charges have shocked the European Union, fueling concerns of foreign influence operations and corruption within one of its key institutions. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola responded swiftly, suspending Kaili over the investigation; her Greek party also removed her.
Kaili had been a staunch supporter of Qatar, previously declaring Doha to be a “front-runner in labor rights” despite considerable global scrutiny of its treatment of migrant workers ahead of the World Cup, as Human Rights Watch’s Rothna Begum chronicled in Foreign Policy.
Qatar, for its part, has rejected the reports of Belgium’s investigation. “We are not aware of any details of an investigation,” a government spokesperson told AFP, adding that “any claims of misconduct by the state of Qatar are gravely misinformed.”