Qatar says ‘inaccurate’ information in Belgian corruption probe
Authorities have charged four people, including a European Parliament vice president, over alleged influence campaign.
A Qatari official has said that a Belgian investigation into an alleged attempt to influence the European Parliament relied on “inaccurate” information and could “negatively” impact relations between the two countries.
The statement on Sunday from a diplomat of Qatar’s mission to the European Union reiterated a previous rejection of attempts to associate the Gulf country with misconduct.
“Qatar was not the only party named in the investigation, yet our country has been exclusively criticised and attacked,” the statement said. “We have observed this week’s selective condemnation of our country with great alarm.”
According to media reports, Moroccan interests also face scrutiny in the investigation.
The diplomat added: “It is deeply disappointing that the Belgian government made no effort to engage with our government to establish the facts once they became aware of the allegations.”
Four people – including Eva Kaili, a Greek European Parliament vice president – have been charged in Belgium after investigators said a series of raids uncovered about 1.5 million euros ($1.59m).
Prosecutors said the money was part of an influence campaign by a Gulf state, which various media outlets later identified as Qatar, the country currently hosting the 2022 World Cup.
Last week, the European Parliament voted to suspend Qatari representatives’ access to the body. Members also paused legislative work related to Qatar, including a visa waiver for Qataris and Kuwaitis travelling to the bloc and an EU-Qatar aviation agreement.
The Qatari diplomat condemned those moves on Sunday, saying they were premature.
“The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction that limits dialogue and cooperation on Qatar before the legal process has ended will negatively affect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy, poverty and security,” the diplomat said.
The statement also highlighted the “close” relationship between Qatar and Belgium.
“Our nations cooperated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Qatar is an important supplier of LNG [liquified natural gas] to Belgium,” it said.
Kaili, a socialist once considered an ascendent Greek politician, was dismissed from her role as a European Parliament vice president following the arrest. She was also dismissed from the Greek socialist PASOK party.
EU legislators have warned that the allegations risk undermining the bloc’s credibility.
For its part, Qatar has maintained since the allegation emerged that its government “works through institution-to-institution engagement and operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations”.