MEP Eva Kaili stripped of vice president role as Qatar corruption probe widens

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By Euronews
Greek politician and European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili speaks during the European Book Prize award ceremony in Brussels, Dec. 7, 2022.
Greek politician and European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili speaks during the European Book Prize award ceremony in Brussels, Dec. 7, 2022.   -  Copyright  European Parliament via AP

Greek MEP Eva Kaili was stripped of her position as a vice president in the European Parliament.

The decision over Kaili, embroiled in a corruption probe that allegedly involves World Cup hosts Qatar, was taken on Tuesday morning, according to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Her ousting as vice president was rubber-stamped by MEPs who overwhelmingly backed the motion with 625 in favour, one against and two abstentions. A two-thirds majority was needed.

It comes after Belgian police made fresh raids on Monday including one on a European parliamentary office as the corruption investigation widened.

In a statement, Belgium's Federal Prosecutors Office said that the IT resources of ten parliamentary staff had been "frozen" to prevent the "disappearance of data necessary for the investigation". They went on to say that the purpose of the search at the European Parliament was "to seize this data".

The bloc's top politicians have strongly condemned the corruption scandal that is shaking the EU legislative body. The EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola spoke about the "enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing".

"A total of 20 searches have been carried out since the beginning of the operations, including 19 in private homes and the one in the offices of the European Parliament," the Belgian investigators concluded.

The sums seized during the searches carried out so far are spectacular: "€600,000 at the home of one of the suspects, several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel room and around €150,000 in a flat belonging to a Member of the European Parliament," according to the federal prosecutor's office.

In a strongly-worded speech, Metsola spoke of "malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries [that] have allegedly weaponised NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament".

Four people arrested, including Kaili, have been charged with corruption and money-laundering.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said the accusations against Kaili threatened the confidence EU citizens have put in the 27-nation bloc’s institutions.

She said the independent ethics body she proposed establishing would cover lobbying activities at the European Commission, the European Council and European Parliament, as well as at the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors.

Doha has rejected any allegations of misconduct saying that "any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed".

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Kaili's term as an MEP was to be ended instead of just her role as a vice president.

Additional sources • AP, AFP, Reuters