International trade union body suspends chief over 'Qatargate' link

International trade union body suspends chief over 'Qatargate' link
International trade union body suspends chief over 'Qatargate' link Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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BRUSSELS - The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) suspended its general secretary on Wednesday over links to the criminal investigation into corruption that has rocked the European Parliament.

Luca Visentini, who became ITUC general secretary a month ago, has said he is innocent.

ITUC said it had decided at an extraordinary meeting to suspend Visentini until a meeting on March 11 when it would review the matter.

"This in no way implies any presumption of guilt," ITUC said in a statement.

Visentini was one of six people taken in for questioning over alleged payments made by Qatar to influence EU decision-making. However, he is not one of the four people charged in the scandal that has been dubbed Qatargate.

Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

In a long statement on Monday, Visentini said he was questioned as part of a Belgian criminal investigation into potential corruption and money laundering in a criminal organisation and that he was released without charges.

He would though remain part of the investigations until its final results were presented to a court, which could take several months.

"I firmly deny all the accusations made against me. I am innocent," he said.

He said he had been in contact with Fight Impunity, a non-government organisation co-founded by two of those charged, and believed it to be a respected NGO fighting for human rights.

He said he had received a donation of "less than 50,000 euros" ($53,055) from the group, some of it to reimburse the costs of his campaign to become ITUC general-secretary and some to support the costs of travel to the ITUC congress in Australia in November for trade unions with limited means.

He said there were no conditions set for the donation.

He added that his position towards Qatar had not changed and that pressure should continue on the Gulf state to improve human and workers' rights.

($1 = 0.9424 euros)

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