- Kylie was one of four people arrested in Belgium
- A Greek political lawyer said she denies any wrongdoing
- Police uncovered the cash in raids, some of it in a bag at a hotel
- The European Parliament’s role as the bloc’s moral compass is in jeopardy
STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Parliament ousted Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili as deputy speaker on Tuesday after she was accused of accepting bribes from Qatar, in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Brussels.
Cayley denied any wrongdoing, but European lawmakers moved quickly to impeach her, worried that the Belgian investigation would severely affect the association’s efforts to present itself as a sound moral compass in a turbulent world.
said Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, while 625 MEPs voted to deprive Kylie of the vice-presidential position, with one vote against and two abstentions.
Kylie, who is in police custody, was one of 14 deputy speakers.
Over the weekend, Belgian prosecutors charged her and three Italians with participating in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.
A source close to the investigation said he believed they had siphoned money from World Cup host Qatar. The Gulf state has denied any wrongdoing.
A source close to the investigation said police raided several buildings in Brussels, including parliament offices and 19 homes, and discovered about 1.5 million euros ($1.58 million), some of which was hidden in a suitcase in a hotel room.
Kylie’s lawyer in Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said on Tuesday that she is innocent. “It has nothing to do with funding from Qatar, nothing explicit and unequivocal,” he told OpenTV in the first public comment.
However, several MEPs called for the 44-year-old socialist politician to leave the Assembly altogether.
“Given the scale of the corruption scandal, this is the least we can expect from it,” said MEP Manon Aubry, who co-chairs the Left group.
Countries that faced criticism from the council said they had lost the moral high ground.
“From now on, the European Parliament will not be able to talk about corruption in an authoritative way,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook.
Belgian prosecutors said they have suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state is trying to buy influence in Brussels. Although no country was disclosed by the Public Prosecution, a source with knowledge of the case said it was Qatar.
None of the four people accused have been officially identified, but their names were quickly leaked to the press.
According to a source familiar with the case, the other defendants are former EU deputy Pier Antonio Panzieri, Cayley’s partner Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide, and Niccolò Vega Talamanca, general secretary of the Human Rights Campaigns Group.
Calls and emails sent by Reuters to their offices or homes were not answered.
Kylie was among the young, ambitious Greek politicians who emerged in the debilitating debt crisis that engulfed Greece from 2010 to 2015. Greece’s socialist PASOK party said it would expel her from its ranks.
In a speech to the European Parliament on November 21, at the start of the month-long World Cup, she lashed out at Qatar’s critics and hailed the energy-rich Gulf state as “the frontrunner on workers’ rights”.
Qatar has faced intense criticism for its human rights record in the run-up to the World Cup, including its treatment of migrant workers.
Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop, Carolina Tagaris, Clement Rossignol, Max Schwartz, Lefteris Papadimas, Michelle Kampas, Alain Charlish, Giselda Fagnoni; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Edmund Blair and Crispian Palmer
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