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State of Financial Crime 2023 Report

Five Arrested in €1.5 million EU Corruption Probe

PEPs Latest News

Eva Kaili, one of the European Parliament’s 14 vice presidents, was among five arrested on bribery and corruption allegations during a probe by Belgian authorities. Investigations have uncovered a web including Kaili’s partner, former politicians, and NGO decision-makers. Nineteen or more raids on personal residences and offices – including at the European Parliament’s Brussels headquarters – uncovered more than €1.5 million across various locations in what appears to be proceeds of corruption. 

The individuals involved are alleged to have accepted bribes from an unspecified Gulf state in exchange for EU special treatment. Kaili’s conspicuous favoring of Qatar before the probe has prompted open speculation, but Qatar officials have strenuously denied any suggestions that their country was involved. Nevertheless, the European Parliament has suspended all “parliamentary work” involving Qatar to allow for a reevaluation. 

European Union Responds to Alleged Corruption

“Make no mistake,” said European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, “…our way of open, free, democratic societies are under attack…There will be no impunity. None. Those responsible will find this Parliament on the side of the law.” She pledged an internal investigation, along with reforms including a strengthening of whistleblower protections. 

Others, including the president of the European Commission, called for the establishment of an independent ethics committee. And on December 13, Metsola announced the suspension of Kaili as vice president, following a unanimous proposal from the Conference of Presidents.

Qatar Visa Privileges Halted

A proposed visa waiver for Qatar nationals traveling to the Schengen zone was included in the work suspended by the European Parliament. The proposal would have exempted Qatari travelers from visa requirements if their stay did not exceed 90 days within a 180-day period. The proposed policy, which proponents hoped would improve Europe’s relations with Gulf nations, is currently halted out of concern that corrupt practices could have unduly influenced it. A proposed amendment will also seek to bar a profitable deal with Qatar Airways that would have allowed the airline broad entry into Europe’s transportation markets.

Key Takeaways

Politically exposed persons (PEPs) and their networks are uniquely vulnerable to bribery and corruption threats. This case is a timely reminder the risks associated with PEPs are high even in jurisdictions such as the European Union that are not typically associated with corruption. The situation is likely to evolve quickly, which could lead to the introduction of new rules in areas like whistleblowing at short notice. Firms should monitor announcements from the EU closely. Compliance teams may also consider auditing their existing PEP due diligence procedures, ensuring they are up-to-date and any exposure to markets like Qatar is fully understood. 

Effective processes should consider PEPs’ complex networks thoroughly, ensuring no gaps in analysis. For example, an orchestration approach uses technology like artificial intelligence and APIs to coordinate layered analytical methods and is generally more efficient than relying on only one or two methods at a time.

The story also comes as the EU looks set to introduce a comprehensive new AML/CFT framework in 2023. Following AML scandals, including the Russian Laundromat, Danske Bank, and Wirecard, the proposal establishes a new cross-bloc AML authority alongside a clear AML/CFT rulebook for firms operating in the EU.

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Originally published 15 December 2022, updated 16 December 2022

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