The European Parliament has opened an investigation into accusations in a British newspaper that three senior MEPs took cash to change laws.
The Sunday Times claims that Ernst Strasser, Adrian Severin and Zoran Thaler accepted offers of up to 100,000 euros from undercover reporters posing as lobbyists in exchange for proposing amendments to water down financial regulation legislation.
All three deny any wrongdoing but Strasser resigned as an MEP shortly after the story broke on Sunday.
Strasser a former interior minister and MEP for the Austrian People’s Party was secretly filmed telling the fake lobbyists that he was already on the payroll of corporate clients who rewarded him with a six-figure salary. He now claims he knew the ‘lobbyists’ were not genuine, but that he was playing along with the intention of handing them over to police. His resignation, he says, is to protect his party.
Severin is a former deputy prime minister of Romania and member of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats European Parliament grouping. According to the Sunday Times, he sent the reporters an email that read “Just to let you know that the amendment desired by you has been tabled in due time.” He then sent them a 12,000 euro bill for his ‘consulting services.’ He has called the story an “outrage” and has asked the European parliament to look into legal action against the journalists. He said: “I didn’t do anything that was, let’s say, illegal or against any normal behaviour we have here.”
Thaler was once Slovenia’s foreign minister and sits with Severin with the Socialists and Democrats. He, like Strasser, says he knew he was being set up and accused the newspaper, which he added is “well-known for its anti-EU editorial policy”, of trying to “discredit” the parliament with an “immoral offer.”
The Sunday Times said it contacted 60 MEPS to investigate rumours that some could be bought. It adds that two of the amendments requested by the fake lobbyists went on to appear in official parliament documents.
A spokesperson for the parliament confirmed that it had launched an investigation and that it was taking the allegations seriously.