Here comes one of the biggest scandals in European Parliament history. So, Belgium has been investigating alleged bribery by a Gulf state, which it named as Qatar, for around four months. The country has been accused of seeking to sway the European Parliament's decisions with gifts and money.
On Sunday, Belgian prosecutors announced they had charged four people with corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization. One of the four charged is Greek MEP Eva Kaili. She's one of the European Parliament's 14 vice presidents and was accused of accepting bribes from World Cup host Qatar in the corruption scandal.
Belgian police have searched 20 homes of lawmakers so far in the investigation, confiscating more than €1.5 million (US$1.6 million) in cash. On Tuesday, Kaili was removed from her VP role in the European Parliament and expelled by her political party in Greece, too. Local authorities have also frozen her assets, but Kaili's lawyer says she is innocent. And right now, she's in custody and will be brought to court on Wednesday. As for Qatar, it denied any wrongdoing.
"The group chairs in the European Parliament unanimously voted for the removal of vice-president Kaili just now," said German MEP Terry Reintke, co-president of the Green group on Twitter. "We also agreed to a full inquiry into the matter and taking further preventative measures."
"Her position is she is innocent. She has nothing to do with Qatar's bribes," said Kaili's lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, on Greek TV.
"The only way we can rebuild trust is to fully support the investigations," said EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson on Tuesday to the European Parliament. "For the guilty, to be brought to justice. And for us to root out corruption anywhere we find it." She also announced plans to propose a new law against corruption in the EU, including "trafficking in influence, illicit enrichment, embezzlement and abuse of power."
"We must ensure that this process has not been influenced by corruption," said German Green MEP Erik Marquardt, who is in charge of a postponed vote for allowing Qatari citizens visa-free travel in Europe. "We also have to make sure that any attempt to attack our democracy has consequences. For now, we will not proceed towards visa liberalization for Qatar."