World Cup Qatar: 16 house searches in European Parliament corruption investigation.
In a judicial investigation into alleged corruption, criminal organization and money laundering, the federal judicial police carried out 16 house searches in Brussels on Friday morning. Knack and Le Soir learned this from well-informed sources and it has been confirmed by the federal prosecutor’s office.
The federal prosecutor’s office has been investigating possible corruption in the European Parliament since July. “For several months now, investigators from the federal judicial police have suspected a Gulf state of trying to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament,” confirms Eric Van Duyse, spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office. “In particular by paying substantial amounts of money or offering large gifts to third parties with an important political and/or strategic position in the European Parliament.”
The federal prosecutor does not want to say which Gulf state is involved. But Knack and Le Soir learned from several well-informed sources that the public prosecutor is targeting Qatar, the organizer of the World Cup football. The investigators are investigating whether Qatar has tried to influence positions in the European Parliament in a way that goes beyond classic lobbying.
The investigation into a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering is led by investigating judge Michel Claise, who specializes in financial crime. Detectives from the Central Anti-Corruption Service of the federal police have been working on the file with complete discretion for months. It is very sensitive — diplomatically and politically — and is potentially very explosive.
International Day Against Corruption
Today of all days — 9 December is the International Day against Corruption — investigators raided 14 places in Brussels in the early hours. ‘The house searches took place in Ixelles, Schaarbeek, Kraainem, Vorst and 1000 Brussels’, says Van Duyse. “The operation was aimed at assistants of MEPs working in the European Parliament.”
According to MY information, searches have been carried out at four parliamentary assistants linked to MEPs from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). One of them also has links to the European People’s Party. The investigators also raided two advisers and an official of the European Parliament, directors of international non-profit organizations that lobby Europe, a former member of the European Parliament and a high-ranking trade unionist.
‘Computers and smartphones have been seized,’ says Van Duyse. “We also seized about 500,000 euros in cash from one of the suspects.
Former MEP and trade unionist arrested for questioning
The federal prosecutor’s office also confirms that 4 people have been detained for questioning. Legally, they can be brought before the investigating judge within 24 hours, who can possibly arrest them. If that happens, they must appear before the Council Chamber within five days. They have Italian nationality or Italian roots. ‘They were born in 1955, 1969, 1971 and 1987,’ says Van Duyse.
According to MY information, these are a parliamentary assistant, a lobbyist, former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D) and trade unionist Luca Visentini. Of course, the presumption of innocence applies to those involved, until a judge rules otherwise.
Visentini was elected secretary-general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in November, with 200 million members worldwide.
According to MY information, it is at Panzeri that almost 500,000 euros in cash were seized during the searches this morning. Panzeri is chairman of Fight Impunity, a Brussels-based non-profit founded in 2019 to ‘promote the fight against impunity for serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity. According to MY information, a house search was also carried out there this morning.
Polish the image of Qatar
The host city of NATO and the European institutions, Brussels is one of the cities with the largest concentration of lobbyists in the world. Knack, Le Soir and De Tijd already revealed last summer in the Uber Files dossier that lobbying sometimes goes a long way . But the judicial investigation into possible corruption that the federal prosecutor’s office is currently conducting is reported of a different order.
Qatar, the organizer of the World Cup, has long been under international fire because of the controversial awarding of the World Cup, poor working conditions and attitudes to LGBTQ. For the country, the World Cup is a way to polish up its image and show itself to the world.
In response, the European Parliament says it will not comment on legal proceedings. As always, the European Parliament is cooperating fully with the competent national authorities. That also applies in this specific case.’