EU’s Qatargate corruption scandal: Police seize €280,000 from home of Belgian MEP’s son

By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Belgian investigators have seized €280,000 in cash from the home of the son of Belgian MEP Marie Arena, one of the main figures in Brussels’ Qatargate corruption scandal.

Investigators found the money in the home of 32-year-old Ugo Lemaire during a search of six properties linked to Arena on July 19. Lemaire lives in the property next door to his mother’s home.

According to Le Soir, the first newspaper to publish the story, the origin of the money is unknown and no direct link to the corruption scandal has yet been found. This is the second time Lemaire’s name has come up in the ongoing investigation.

Just two months ago, it emerged that Nicolas Claise, son of Michel Claise, the judge previously investigating the case, had set up a legal cannabidiol business with Lemaire in 2018.

Neither Lemaire nor his lawyers are willing to comment on the case.

Marie Arena denies any involvement in the corruption scandal and has not been formally charged by the Belgian authorities. Despite this, there have been several reports in recent months that she has multiple links to foreign governments.

In January, Arena resigned as chairman of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights after Politico reported that she had failed to properly report that her accommodation and flights on May 8 and 9 last year on a trip to Doha, which were paid for by the Qatari government.

In March, the leaked testimony of former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri — who admitted taking bribes and is now cooperating with federal investigators — revealed that he and Arena stayed at a luxury hotel in Morocco in 2015 on a trip largely funded by the Moroccan government. According to Panzeri, however, Arena was unaware of who actually sponsored the trip, the Belgian newspaper Brussels Times reported.

Several current and former EU officials and civil servants are charged in the Qatargate case, which is linked to alleged money offered by Qatar and Morocco to promote a positive image of Qatar and influence EU institutions, including to allow visa-free travel for Qataris in the EU.

The most notable names accused in the case are Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili, who was sacked as European Parliament vice-president, and her life partner, Italian Francesco Giorgi, who is MEP Andrea Cozzolino’s assistant.

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