- Kylie was among four people arrested in Belgium
- A Greek political lawyer said she denies any wrongdoing
- Police uncovered the cash in raids, some of it in a bag at a hotel
- The European Parliament’s role as the bloc’s moral compass is in jeopardy
STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Parliament withdrew Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili from her high post on Tuesday over allegations that World Cup hosts Qatar had bribed it to influence decision-making, accusations it denied.
Cayley, one of 14 deputy speakers of parliament, was among four people arrested and charged in Belgium over the scandal, which has sparked outrage in Brussels and threatens to damage the EU’s image.
The case, in which piles of cash were discovered by police, casts a shadow over the European Parliament which seeks to be a moral compass, criticizing violations of universal rights and holding EU governments accountable for any hint of misconduct.
Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.
Parliament moved quickly to break ties with Kylie, with 625 MPs voting in favor of the move, only one against and two abstaining.
“Europarl_EN’s integrity comes first and foremost,” President Roberta Metsola wrote on Twitter.
“Her position is that she is innocent, I can tell you that,” Kylie’s attorney in Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said earlier on Tuesday.
“It has nothing to do with funding from Qatar, nothing explicit and unequivocal,” Dimitrakopoulos told Open TV in the first public comment.
Several EU countries, including Germany, said the 27-nation bloc’s credibility was at stake. Countries that have faced criticism from the assembly, including EU member Hungary, said they had lost moral logic.
“From now on, the European Parliament will not be able to talk about corruption in an authoritative way,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook.
Belgian police searched 19 homes and parliament offices from Friday to Monday as part of their investigation, seizing computers, mobile phones and money, some of which was found in a bag in a hotel room.
None of the four people accused were officially identified, but Kylie’s name soon leaked to the press.
Belgian prosecutors said they have suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state is trying to buy influence in Brussels. Although no country was disclosed by the Public Prosecution, a source with knowledge of the case said it was Qatar.
Several European lawmakers called on Kylie to resign.
“Given the scale of the corruption scandal, this is the least we can expect from it,” said MEP Manon Aubry, who co-chairs the Left group.
“Our colleagues in the European Parliament are deeply shocked. These developments are very burdensome,” said Manfred Weber of the conservative European People’s Party.
On Monday, Greek authorities froze Kylie’s assets in her home country, while Greece’s PASOK Socialist Party said it would expel her from its ranks.
Kyli, 44, a socialist MEP, was among a group of ambitious young Greek politicians to emerge in the debilitating debt crisis that engulfed Greece from 2010 to 2015, during which the country required three international bailouts.
Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop, Carolina Tagaris, Clement Rossignol, Max Schwartz, Lefteris Papadimas, Michelle Kampas; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Aaron Kuyor, Edmund Blair and Crispian Palmer
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