Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, has indicated that arrests related to alleged corruption at the European Parliament are “very, very serious.”
Additionally, the charges against four people were “extremely damaging,” according to Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister of foreign affairs.
Vice President of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, who is thought to be one of those charged, was detained.
Authorities believe a Gulf nation—reportedly Qatar—tried to sway parliament through monetary or in-kind contributions.
Qatar has refuted any wrongdoing.
In 16 searches conducted in Brussels on Friday, Belgian police confiscated cash totaling roughly €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000). To investigate the contents, computers and mobile phones were also taken.
According to prosecutors, two people have been released, while four have been charged.
Although no suspects have been publicly identified, Ms. Kaili is believed to be one of those who have been charged.
According to a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, they are accused of participating in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption.
Ms. Kaili, an eight-year MEP, was relieved of her responsibilities as one of the 14 vice presidents by Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament.
She has also been kicked out of the Greek Pasok center-left party and suspended from the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament.
All of Ms. Kaili’s assets are reportedly blocked by Greek prosecutors.
The bribery inquiry, according to watchdogs and opposition MEPs, may be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of the European Parliament.
As he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, Mr. Borrell told reporters, “The news is certainly very, very troubling.”
As a former president of the European Parliament, I can confidently say that the events and circumstances we are currently confronting worry me.
According to Mr. Borrell, the probe did not focus on any members of the EU diplomatic corps.
Before the meeting on Monday, Mr. Coveney added that “we need to get to the bottom of it” and called the accusations “extremely harmful.”
Terry Reintke, who serves as co-chair of the Green group in parliament, has demanded that Ms. Kaili resign immediately.
“We shouldn’t even have to remove her from her vice president position,” the German MEP said. “This should be done by her proactively.”
Prosecutors said they suspected a Gulf state had been influencing the economic and political decisions of the parliament for several months, especially by targeting aides.
Local media has named the state Qatar, though the Qatari government said any misconduct claims were “gravely misinformed.”
The Middle East is one of Ms. Kaili’s vice-presidential responsibilities. She has previously stood up for Qatar.
Ms. Metsola took a flight on Saturday night from her native Malta to Brussels to witness the search for an MEP’s home, as required by Belgian law.
According to her spokesman, the European Parliament “stands firmly against corruption” and is “completely collaborating” with the authorities.
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