The European Parliament’s political groups voted on Tuesday to strip Eva Kaili of her role as vice president over a major corruption scandal, just as her lawyer said she denied any wrongdoing in her first public comment on the case.
Kaili, one of 14 vice presidents of the parliament, was among four people arrested and charged in Belgium at the weekend over allegations that World Cup host Qatar lavished them with cash and gifts to influence decision-making.
The scandal has triggered outrage in Brussels and raised concerns among EU lawmakers and political leaders that the incident could further dent the EU’s image at home and abroad, prompting the assembly to quickly cut ties with Kaili.
The European Parliament sees itself as a moral compass in Brussels, issuing resolutions critical of human rights abuses across the globe and taking EU governments to task. Germany said the case had jeopardised the credibility of Europe.
The decision to remove Kaili was taken by the European Parliament’s conference of presidents in an emergency meeting, President Roberta Metsola said. The vote now needs to be confirmed by the whole parliament later on Tuesday.
Belgian prosecutors said they had suspected for more than four months that a Gulf state was trying to buy influence in Brussels.
A source with knowledge of the case said the state was Qatar. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.
Greece on Monday froze Kaili’s assets in the country.
Belgian police searched 19 homes and the offices of the parliament from Friday to Monday and have seized computers, mobile phones and several hundred thousands of euros in cash.
Meanwhile, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, a lawyer representing Kaili in her home country Greece, told Open TV: “Her position is that she is innocent, I can tell you that.”
“She has nothing to do with financing from Qatar, nothing – explicitly and unequivocally. That is her position,” Dimitrakopoulos said, adding that she had “undertaken no commercial activity in her life”.