As the FIFA World Cup 2022 continues in Qatar, the Gulf country is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, with "bribery" being the latest issue to tarnish the country's image. Qatar is alleged to have sought to influence EU policy by bribing the European parliament officials.
Four European officials have been charged with money laundering, corruption and participating in a criminal organization. This comes after Belgian police searched 16 homes and detained the four, including European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili who is from the Greek socialist party Pasok, in and around Brussels on Friday as part of an inquiry.
She was suspended from the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament with immediate effect and expelled from the Pasok party in Greece.
Kaili had recently called Qatar a frontrunner in labor rights after meeting with the country's labor minister, despite deep international concerns about conditions for stadium construction workers.
The Belgian federal prosecutor's office, in a statement, said the searches were carried out as part of a wider investigation. It primarily targeted parliamentary assistants. They found £516,000. The investigators seized computers and mobile phones to examine the influence of the Middle Eastern nation.
Those detained were Luca Visentini, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation; and Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former S&D MEP from Italy who chaired the Parliament's human rights subcommittee.
Reports say that Panzeri's wife and daughter were also arrested in Italy on a European arrest warrant. Panzeri, as per the warrant, is alleged of intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco.
Belgian prosecutors say the "unnamed country" (Qatar) tried to influence the parliament with gifts and money. They have suspected a country from the Persian Gulf of influencing economic and political decisions of the European Parliament. "This is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political or strategic position within the European Parliament.
Qatar Embroiled in Human Rights Violations
The FIFA World Cup 2022 host has been embroiled in human rights violations that has been going on in Qatar for years. Recently, the Human Rights Watch outlined the tournament's dark side. It highlighted concerns associated with Qatar's preparations for and hosting of the World Cup and broader problems with protecting human rights in the country.
"The 2022 World Cup's legacy will depend on whether Qatar remedies with FIFA the deaths and other abuses of migrant workers who built the tournament, carries out recent labor reforms and protects human rights for all in Qatar," HRW said.
It noted that FIFA granted the Gulf country the games in 2010, with no human rights due diligence and no set conditions about protections for migrant workers who would be needed to construct the massive infrastructure. HRW believes FIFA failed to impose strong conditions to protect workers and became a complacent enabler to the widespread abuse workers suffered.