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A European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg Shutterstock/Drop of Light

Explainer: What's been going on with the European Parliament arrests over Qatar?

Four people have been charged with “money laundering and corruption”.

ON FRIDAY, NEWS broke that four people had been arrested by police in Brussels over suspected corruption at the European Parliament.

In the days that followed, more details emerged as one of the vice presidents of the parliament, Eva Kaili, was remanded in custody over allegations she was bribed by the FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar.

It has been reported that investigators found “bags of cash” at the Greek MEPs home, shortly after she returned from Qatar. It is understood that prosecutors in Belgium believe that officials from the country tried to use cash and gifts to influence what the parliament members might say or do. 

Speaking earlier today, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said that she had stripped Kaili of her role as vice president as “an effort to protect the integrity of this house”.

Kaili is among the four people who have been charged as part of the corruption investigation, which has engulfed the EU institution in controversy.

While Kaili was not named by the Belgian prosecutors office, a judicial source confirmed to AFP that she had been charged.

During a press conference this afternoon, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the charges against Kaili as being of “utmost concern” and that they were “very serious”.

“The allegations against the vice president of the European Parliament are of utmost concern, very serious,” von der Leyen said.

“It is a question of confidence of people into our institutions, and this confidence and trust into our institutions needs higher standards.”

What happened?

Over the weekend, four people were charged with “participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption” by Belgian police, who said that it was part of a probe into suspected corruption by a “Gulf country”.

While Belgian authorities did not detail the country, it was reported shortly after that the allegations surrounded Qatari officials, who had allegedly provided huge cash bribes to MEPs and other European officials.

In a statement, the Belgian prosecutors said:

“Four individuals have been arrested by the Brussels investigating judge who is leading the investigation.

“They are charged with participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption.”

Police carried out 16 raids across Brussels on Friday, seizing €600,000 in cash alongside IT equipment and mobile phones.

Investigators have now begun to search European Parliament offices, with computer data from 10 parliamentary staff members being seized, bringing the total number of raids to 20.

While the allegations have been levelled against Qatar, officials in Doha have “categorically” denied any involvement in wrongdoing.

Alongside Kaili, a former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri was also arrested.

Kaili had previously visited Qatar just ahead of the World Cup and had praised the country, calling it a “frontrunner in labour rights”.

The socialist MEP, who had previously presented the news on a private Greek television channel, was first elected to the European Parliament in 2014 after a stint in national politics.

During her time in the Greek parliament, Kaili was the youngest elected MP of the socialist PASOK party.

She was only elected as a vice president of the European Parliament 11 months ago.

Following the fallout from the ongoing controversy, Kaili has been suspended from PASOK, with some members calling on her to resign as an MEP.


This morning, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told reporters that the allegations were “damaging”.

“It is damaging and we need to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

“We need to have, obviously a full and transparent investigation so we can have an explanation for what happened.

“The European Parliament is a very important institution. I was a member of it in the past but it’s a big part of European democracy and this is a scandal that we need to expose the truth around so that we can ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Addressing the opening of the parliament’s plenary today, Metsola told MEPs that she had to be careful not to prejudice the ongoing investigation, but that she was furious with what happened.

“The enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing. These malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries have allegedly weaponised NGOs, Unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament in an effort to subdue our processes,” Metsola said.

“Their malicious plans failed. Our services, of whom I am incredibly proud, have been working with relevant national law enforcement and judicial authorities to break up this alleged criminal network for some time.”

The head of EU Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, described the allegations as “worrisome” and “very, very, very grave”.

With reporting by AFP