EU fires top official arrested in graft probe
EU lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to prematurely end the term of European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili. The Greek politician was arrested in Belgium following a probe into corruption allegations, reportedly involving FIFA 2022 World Cup host Qatar.
During a session on Tuesday, 625 MEPs supported the decision, with only one voting against and two abstentions. The chamber’s president, Roberta Metsola, had filed a motion of dismissal on Monday. It required a qualified majority of two-thirds to pass.
Kaili, who served as one of 14 vice presidents of the assembly, was arrested last week as part of a Belgian police investigation into alleged bribery of EU officials. Prosecutors say several MEPs were influenced using gifts and money provided to family and friends by a “Gulf country” that local media identified as Qatar. Kaili is one of four suspects in the case, according to Belgian authorities.
Both the Qatari government and Kaili have denied any wrongdoing.
The 44-year-old is a former TV presenter has been an MEP for the Greek Panhellenic Socialist Movement, better known as PASOK, since 2014. She was ousted by her own party as well as from the ‘Socialists & Democrats’ group in the EU Parliament, after news of her arrest broke.
The Belgian Central Anti-Corruption Office has reported conducting 16 searches across several cities and confiscating over €600,000 ($633,700) as part of the probe. The Greek Anti-Money Laundering Authority announced on Monday that it had seized assets owned by Kaili, and by her family members and associates.
More searches took place in Belgium over the weekend and on Monday, including at the EU parliament building. Cash seized at homes associated with Kaili and another suspect, an Italian MEP, totaled more than €1.5 million, the newspaper LeSoir reported on Tuesday.
Disagreements have escalated in the EU over Qatar’s human rights record, amid the ongoing FIFA World Cup in the country. There are long-standing accusations that Doha mistreats workers and that foreign forced labor was used in preparation for the football championship. Kaili rejected this line of criticism in a speech in November, arguing that Qatar is a “frontrunner” on labor rights in the region.