European Parliament strips detained Greek MEP of vice president role

Eva Kaili is the highest profile detainee at the heart of ongoing corruption scandal

Greek politician Eva Kaili has been stripped of her role as vice president of the European Parliament. AFP
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The European Parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping Greek MEP Eva Kaili of her vice president role over her alleged involvement in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the chamber’s history.

Out of 628 MEPs present, 625 voted in favour, two abstained and only one voted against sacking Ms Kaili. The vote required a two-thirds majority.

Ms Kaili, one of 14 vice presidents of the parliament, was among four people arrested and charged in Belgium at the weekend over allegations that World Cup host Qatar made payments to influence their decision-making.

The scandal has triggered outrage in Brussels and raised concerns among European lawmakers and political leaders that the incident could further dent the EU's image at home and abroad, prompting the assembly to quickly cut ties with Ms Kaili.

Belgian prosecutors have said they had suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state was trying to buy influence in Brussels.

A source with knowledge of the case said the state was Qatar. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

“Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed,” its mission to the EU said in a statement, adding that Qatar worked through institution-to-institution engagement and in full compliance with international laws.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola previously said that political leaders had unanimously decided to propose an early end to Ms Kaili's term.

Ms Metsola on Monday stripped Ms Kaili of her tasks and responsibilities “in an effort to protect the integrity” of the parliament.

The vote came shortly after Ms Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said his client was innocent in the first public comment on her case.

Asked if any cash was found at her home, Mr Dimitrakopoulos said: “I am not confirming or denying. There is confidentiality. I have no idea if money was found or how much was found.

“She has nothing to do with financing from Qatar, nothing — explicitly and unequivocally. That is her position.”

She had “undertaken no commercial activity in her life”, Mr Dimitrakopoulos added.

Greece on Monday froze Ms Kaili's assets in the country.

Belgian police searched 19 homes and the parliament offices between Friday and Monday. They seized computers and mobile phones.

Prosecutors said they also found €‎600,000 ($630,000) at the home of one suspect, €‎150,000 at the flat of an MEP and several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a hotel room.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 1:12 PM