Qatar has long dismissed all allegations raised against it, rejecting attempts to “drag its name” into the issue.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) dismissed general-secretary Luca Visentini, citing that he had accepted thousands of euros from an NGO at the centre of the alleged ‘Qatar influence-buying’ scandal, according to Politico.
In a statement released by the ITUC on Saturday, it noted that the General Council had resolved to call an emergency meeting to nominate a new general-secretary to succeed Visentini “as soon as is practicable.”
The confederation also promised to take into account changes to its charter “on the financing of campaigns for ITUC leadership elections and on financial compliance.”
“The events of the past few months have caused significant damage to the ITUC’s reputation,” ITUC President Akiko Gono said in the statement. “Important lessons have been learned and the General Council reiterated the ITUC’s absolute opposition to corruption in any form.”
Visentini said that he “deeply regrets” the ITUC’s decision, in a statement to Politico on Saturday. “I reiterate that I am innocent of the accusations of corruption and money laundering that were leveled at me,” he said.
“The donation I received was given to the ITUC to help trade unions in need, I believed that this money came from a reliable source, and it was used by the ITUC in an impartial manner and according to existing internal rules,” he added.
Visentini’s timeline in EU scandal
Visentini was one of the first individuals seized by Belgian authorities in December as part of a probe into claims of bribery involving senior EU officials, Brussels-based groups and Qatar.
Before to the 2022 World Cup, Visentini and Sharan Burrow, his ITUC predecessor, attracted attention for their supportive remarks regarding labour changes in Qatar, reports stated.
Later, he admitted to taking an estimated €50,000 towards his bid for the ITUC leadership from ex-MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri’s Organisation Against Impunity, but denied being aware of any “irregular” activity.
On 11 December, Visentini was released without being charged but with stringent travel limitations. On 21 December, his international trade union leadership was placed on hold pending Saturday’s decision.
Belgian authorities have prosecuted four people as part of a broader crackdown in the continuing criminal probe into claims of bribery between Qatar and EU officials.
These include Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide and partner of Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP who founded the non-profit organisation Against Impunity, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the general-secretary of the advocacy group No Peace Without Justice.
Members of the European Parliament in January voted to pause further moves related to Qatar due to the ongoing allegations of the Gulf state’s involvement in the EU’s latest scandal.
The scandal emerged in December last year after Belgian authorities raided various locations of members of the European Parliament where they seized hundreds of thousands of euros.
Qatar has dismissed all allegations raised against it, rejecting attempts to “drag its name” into the issue.
The EU scandal has dominated headlines over the past months with different names emerging in media reports as investigations continue.
Aside from Kaili, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri was also among the top names raised since the scandal was made public.
In late January, a Belgian court withdrew a request to extradite Panzeri’s daughter and wife to Belgium following an agreement between the Belgian court and Italian politician.
Panzeri’s wife Maria Dolores Colleoni and daughter Silvia Panzeri, also suspects in the scandal, will remain under house arrest in Italy instead of facing charges in Belgium.
Citing media leaks, reports were quick to claim Qatar, Morocco and Bahrain’s alleged involvement in the scandal.
In January, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed Doha is “100%” sure that allegations of paying off European officials are baseless.
“As a State of Qatar, we are 100% sure that this premise has no basis. We didn’t see anything. There’s an ongoing investigation. We have to see; we have to wait until the investigation is over,” Sheikh Mohammeed told CNBC in his first comment on the matter.
Sheikh Mohammed highlighted that such Qatar-targeted allegations have only been from the media, and noted that the country itself has not yet received any such complaints from Belgium authorities.
“This problem is a problem that is happening in Europe for a European institution. It is better for them to look at their own institution and do all the steps required for them and not to drag our country’s name in such a situation,” he stressed.