A diplomat at Qatar’s European Union’s mission told Doha News on Sunday that the information leaked to the media was inaccurate.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed on Tuesday that it had begun a probe into press leaks related to the corruption issue in the European Parliament, confirming reports from L’Echo and De Tijd.
Given that the suspects’ attorneys have the ability to argue that the investigation was violated by the leaks, this could be harmful to the outcome of the case.
Sensitive information that appears to be related to the Qatar corruption scandal, dubbed Qatargate, has been reported regularly in the press. On Tuesday, information from a report written by the examining magistrate Michel Claise was published in newspapers and a weekly publication.
Eva Kaili, one of the vice presidents of the European Parliament and one of the primary suspects in this case, appears to have offered a partial confession during one of her initial sessions.
L’Echo and De Tijd point out that several media outlets have also released information from a State Security study that includes fragments from talks between Pier Antonio Panzeri, his wife, and their daughter.
Other information made public over the course of several days suggests that Pier Antonio Panzeri and Francesco Giorgi are accusing Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella of a crime. Justice worries that these disclosures may undermine the inquiry. The attorneys for the various parties involved in this case will not refrain from claiming that their clients’ rights to a fair trial were de facto violated, L’Echo and De Tijd revealed.
The developments arise amid reports over an alleged corruption case in the European parliament involving bribes to attempt to influence its policies, with allegations that Qatar and Morocco have attempted to pay EU lawmakers in order to influence opinions being at the heart of the issue.
Authorities in Brussels have arrested and charged four people and seized at least €1.5 million in cash early December at the homes of one current and one former MEP, as Belgian authorities said they were probing corruption and money laundering, as per a Financial Times report.
At first, six people were held in custody. According to prosecutors, two of which have been released and four have been charged. None of the parties involved have been named.
Qatar has been accused in various western media reports of being involved in the case. This came after the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office sent a media statement saying the police “suspected a Gulf country of influencing economic and political decisions of the European parliament.”
“This is done by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European parliament,” an official privy to the matter told Reuters in an emailed statement.
“They are charged with participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption. Two persons have been released by the investigating judge,”the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement, as quoted by AFP .
A judicial source told AFP that European parliament vice-president Eva Kaili is among the four.
‘Baseless and gravely misinformed’
Qatar has staunchly dismissed the allegations as “baseless and gravely misinformed”, maintaining that it has been unfairly singled out.
“Qatar categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct. Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed,” Doha’s mission to the EU said in a statement early December.
Qatar also slammed the allegations as “preconceived prejudices” against the Gulf country on Sunday, telling Doha News that “it is deeply concerning for those responsible for the leaks have neglected their commitment to justice and truth in pursuit of self-serving objectives.”
The statement comes after members of the European Parliament voted last week to suspend Qatari representatives’ access to its premises, Euronews reported. The vote came after allegations against the Gulf state of bribery in an attempt to influence decision-making.
During a meeting on Tuesday with the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stressed Doha’s “rejection” of misleading media leaks amid the soaring scandal.
In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry said that Sheikh Mohammed and Borrell discussed the ongoing corruption investigations in the European Parliament.
Sheikh Mohammed also stressed “Qatar’s rejection of the misleading media leaks that drag its name in this matter” during his meeting with Borrell.