Eva Kaili, Greek socialist and one of the 14 vice-presidents of the EU Parliament has been expelled by her political party after she was arrested in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday by police investigating alleged lobbying by World Cup hosts Qatar. The alleged arrest is related to a corruption investigation involving the hosts of the FIFA World Cup, Qatar.
Kaili, 44, is being questioned after the arrests of four other people as officers searched 16 properties earlier on Friday. According to sources in the European Parliament, the offices of two Belgian socialist MEPs, Marc Tarabella and Maria Arena, as well as Kaili's office were all sealed by Belgian police.
According to reports, Kaili's partner as well as Luca Visentini, 53, who is the current General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, has also been arrested. The ITUC stated that it was "aware" of the media reports but did not have any additional comments at this time.
It is believed that all four individuals who were first arrested are either Italian nationals or have Italian ancestry. According to a person familiar with the investigation, Kaili is the partner of one of the four, a parliamentary assistant for the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament.
Kaili has since been suspended from both the parliament and her political party.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), one of Greece's major opposition parties, issued the following statement on Friday: "Following the latest developments and the investigation by Belgian authorities into corruption of European officials, MEP Eva Kaili is expelled from PASOK-Movement of change by decision of President Nikos Androulakis."
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Kaili's political party in the European Parliament, also announced on Friday that Kaili will be suspended from the organization with immediate effect "in response to the ongoing investigations."
The earlier arrests were made after police raids on 16 homes in the Belgian capital city of Brussels turned up 600,000 euros in cash.
The prosecutors did not specify the identities of the suspects or name the country involved, saying only that it was a "Gulf" state. Prosecutors also said a former MEP was among those arrested did not identify any of those concerned.
The country in question, according to Belgian press reports, was Qatar. The former MEP was identified as Italian Pier-Antonio Panzeri, a socialist who served in the legislature from 2004 to 2019.
"Four people were arrested for questioning and may be brought before the investigating judge," prosecutors said.
"Among those questioned was a former member of the European parliament."
Everything Still a Mystery
The 67-year-old Panzeri currently serves as the director of the Fight Impunity human rights group in Brussels. A statement from prosecutors in Belgium read: "Today's searches have enabled investigators to recover about 600,000 euros in cash."
"Computer equipment and mobile phones were also seized. These elements will be analyzed as part of the investigations. Investigators 'suspected a Gulf country (of influencing) the economic and political decisions of the European parliament," it further read.
The searches largely targeted parliamentary aides and were conducted as part of a larger investigation into "criminal organization, corruption, and money laundering," according to a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor's office.
Panhellenic Socialist Movement member Kaili was elected as one of the 14 vice presidents in January 2022. Since 2014, she has served as an MEP.
Prior to that Kaili was a news anchor for a Greek television channel. She recently called Qatar a 'frontrunner in labor rights' after meeting with the nation's labor minister, according to Politico.
In November, she met Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's labor minister, days before the World Cup started.
"I believe the World Cup for Arabs has been a great tool for... political transformation and reforms...," she said in a video statement shared on Twitter by the Qatar News Agency.
The progress Qatar has made with its labor reforms has been "recognized and respected," she continued.
Later in November, she made similar remarks at an address at the European Parliament, accusing some MEPs of corruption and of "bullying" Qatar.