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Belgium detains four, including ex-MEP, for bribery at EU parliament; cash seized in raids

BrusselsEdited By: Manas JoshiUpdated: Dec 10, 2022, 03:29 PM IST
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The European Union (EU) flags can be seen in this image. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Belgium's federal prosecutor made announcement of the arrests after 600,000 euros in cash were discovered during 16 police raids in Brussels.

Belgium detained four people, including a former Member of European Parliament (MEP), on Friday (December 9) in connection with a probe into suspected bribery by Qatar at the European parliament. Belgium's federal prosecutor made announcement of the arrests after 600,000 euros in cash were discovered during 16 police raids in Brussels.

Prosecutors have not specified identities of those detained but they've said that a 'Gulf' state was involved in the bribery.

AFP quoted a source close to the case who said that the probe and detainment were connected to suspected attempts by Qatar to corrupt an Italian Socialist who was a member of the European parliament from 2004 to 2019.

The four people detained were either Italian citizens or originally came from Italy, the source said. 

"Today's searches have enabled investigators to recover about 600,000 euros in cash," the prosecutors said in a statement. 

"Computer equipment and mobile phones were also seized. These elements will be analysed as part of the investigations."

The statement said investigators "suspected a Gulf country (of influencing) the economic and political decisions of the European parliament".

It alleged this was done "by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to" influential figures in the European parliament.

"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."

Belgian news outlets Le Soir and Knack said that the ex-MEP who was detained was the Italian socialist Pier Antonio Panzeri (67). Panzeri currently heads a Brussels-based human rights organisation called Fight Impunity. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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