- Greek politician among four arrested in Belgium
- Kaylee’s attorney says she denies wrongdoing
- During the police raid, the money was found in a suitcase in some hotel
- The European Parliament’s role as the group’s moral compass is at stake
STRASBOURG, Dec 13 (Reuters) – A Greek MP accused of accepting bribes from Qatar in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Brussels The European Parliament on Tuesday sacked Eva Kylie as the vice-president of the assembly.
Cayley has denied any wrongdoing, but European lawmakers have moved quickly to isolate him, worried that the Belgian investigation could harm the legislature’s efforts to present itself as a good moral compass in a troubled world.
“It cannot be swept under the carpet. Our internal investigation will look at what happened and how we can make our systems watertight,” said European Parliament President Roberta Metzola, as 625 MEPs voted to strip Gaily of her VP post. One voted against and two abstained.
Kylie, who is in Belgian police custody, was one of 14 vice presidents in parliament.
Belgian prosecutors over the weekend charged him and three Italians with participating in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.
A source close to the investigation said they are believed to have received money from Qatar, host of the current World Cup football tournament. The energy-rich Gulf state has denied any wrongdoing.
A source close to the investigation said police searched several buildings in Brussels, including parliamentary offices and 19 homes, and found about 1.5 million euros ($1.58 million), some of which was stashed in a suitcase in a hotel room.
Kylie’s lawyer in Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. “She had nothing to do with funding from Qatar, clearly and unequivocally nothing,” he told Open TV in his first public comments.
Nevertheless, many MEPs called for the 44-year-old socialist politician to leave the House altogether.
“Given the level of corruption, this is the least we expect from her,” said MEP Manon Aubry, co-chair of the left group.
Nationalist right-wing countries and politicians have faced criticism from the council, saying it has lost its moral high ground.
“The European Parliament can no longer speak credibly about corruption,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szyjardo wrote on Facebook.
Jordan Bartella, a French MEP and leader of the far-right Rassemblement National, said the scandal showed what he called a “mockery” of the EU, which “seems itself as a model of virtue, a giver of lessons”.
Belgian prosecutors have spent more than four months suspecting a Gulf state of trying to buy influence in Brussels. Although no state has been publicly named by prosecutors, a source familiar with the case said it was Qatar.
None of the four accused were formally identified, but their names were quickly leaked to the press.
According to a source familiar with the case, the other defendants are former EU lawmaker Pier Antonio Panceri, Kylie’s partner Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary general of the Human Rights Campaign group.
Calls and emails by Reuters to their respective offices or homes went unanswered.
Angelo Di Rizzo, the lawyer for Panzeri’s wife Maria Colleoni and adult daughter Silvia, said they should be extradited from Italy to Belgium as part of the trial, which will be held on December 19-20.
“My clients told the judge that they knew nothing about the matters being challenged against them and that they had nothing to do with it,” Di Rizzo said.
Gaili was one of the young aspiring Greek politicians to emerge from the crippling debt crisis that rocked Greece from 2010 to 2015. The Greek socialist PASOK party said it would expel him from its posts.
At the start of the month-long World Cup at the European Parliament on November 21, Kylie lashed out at Qatar’s protesters and hailed the powerhouse Gulf nation as “a leader in labor rights”.
Qatar, whose immense wealth derives from its oil and gas reserves, has been heavily criticized for its human rights record, including its treatment of migrant workers, ahead of the World Cup.
Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop, Emilio Parodi, Caroline Tagaris, Clement Rossignol, Max Schwarz, Lefteris Papatimas, Michele Kambas, Alan Charlish, Giselda Vagnoni; By Ingrid Melander; Edited by Edmund Blair, Crispian Palmer, and Mark Heinrich
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