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Belgian police raid homes over Gulf lobbying at EU Parliament

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Belgian police searched 16 homes and apprehended four people in and around Brussels on Friday morning, as part of an investigation into lobbying by a Gulf state at the European Parliament.

The searches were carried out as part of a wider investigation into “criminal organization, corruption and money laundering,” and primarily targeted parliamentary assistants, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

A former Socialists & Democrats MEP and a high-ranking trade union official were among those detained by police and brought in for questioning.

“For several months, investigators from the Federal Judicial Police suspect a Gulf country of influencing the European Parliament’s (EP) economic and political decisions,” the statement added.

The Gulf state — named as Qatar by Belgian weekly Knack which cited “well-informed sources” — targeted officials “with a significant political and/or strategic position” at the European Parliament, sending them “substantial amounts of money” and “important gifts,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Qatar has been the subject of recent controversy as the host of the 2022 World Cup, during which it has been criticized for its regressive policies toward LGBTQ+ rights and migrant workers.

Investigators are looking into whether Qatar has sought to influence positions in the European Parliament in ways that “go beyond classic lobbying,” according to Knack.

The police seized “roughly €600,000 in cash,” cellphones and computer equipment in the raids.

The Qatari government did not have an immediate response to a request for comment when contacted by POLITICO.

Camille Gijs contributed reporting.

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