After news broke of the biggest corruption scandal in EU history, it was difficult to fathom what Qatar, Socialist MEPs, and other EU officials were thinking. Did the police really find €1.6 million in bribe money found stuffed in paper bags and suitcases in their apartments? What happened to crypto and offshore bank accounts? It was cinematically and aesthetically very 1980s.
Regardless of the cinematic value, all of this “dirty bribe money” makes Qatar look very bad, and as the investigation grows, it is unclear how many from the EU’s left could be dragged down by corruption charges. While there may be a certain romance to stacks of cash neatly piled up in Louis Vuitton suitcases, there is a whole system of legal patronage that Brussels is built on. It’s about time someone told Qatar how the EU actually works.
Offer ‘side jobs’ for EU MEPs and officials
In Brussels, bribery is legal and thriving, and nobody has to serve a day in prison for taking a cut. MEPs are even allowed to accrue substantial fortunes by legally working part-time (representing citizens at the European level is apparently not necessarily a full-time job).
It is not just about George Soros and his frankly impressive network of NGOs, think tanks, and the massive sums of money they can throw around. There’s a wide range of special interests that promote their agenda through entirely legal lobbying. In fact, as a report shows, MEPs are collectively earning millions working various side jobs in addition to their role as politicians in the EU, often with a clear conflict of interest. Many of these people are already millionaires, and for those who are not, the salary of MEPs and EU officials are already the envy of most Europeans. Yet, there is always more money to be made.
Belgian police today released this photo of piles of cash in €200, €50, €20 and €10 notes. Sources said €150,000 of that was found at Greek MEP Eva Kaili’s flat. But she denies involvement in alleged #QatarGate @Europarl_EN bribery scandal. pic.twitter.com/pdjAwp0I2q— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) December 14, 2022
Take for instance MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a notorious hater of Hungary. Despite his association with left-wing policies, he is a very wealthy individual. He served as the former prime minister of Belgium before entering politics at the EU level and routinely ranked as one of the highest-earning politicians in the entire European Parliament. According to a report from Transparency International (TI) from 2018, records show he earned between €920,000 and €1.4 million in that year alone. That money comes on top of his salary as a member of parliament, which already amounts to approximately €13,000 per month, according to a report from Belgian news outlet BRF. A report from 2021, also citing TI data, put him in the top five earners in the European Parliament.
In other words, MEPs and officials can be bought, but they have to be bought the right way.
Qatar needs to adjust its bribe price
Qatar also needs to understand that politicians do not need millions in bribe money to do the country’s bidding. To Socialist MEP Eva Kaili’s credit, her newfound loyalty to Qatar did not come cheap, but in all likelihood, her loyalty could have been bought for far less. There are U.S. Republican think tanks and politicians bought off for a few thousand dollars by Google and other Big Tech companies. The money lobbyists offer is supposed to keep you on a leash, not set you up for retirement on a yacht.
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A recent report from the Hungarian media details how it normally works within the EU if you want to buy influence. The report details how Soros’ Open Society Foundations does not, for example, pay journalists outright, but instead “covers” their costs, including lunches, stays in expensive hotels, and paid “trips.” Sometimes it is too difficult to hand officials money outright. Instead, NGOs end up contracting with a media worker for a whole month and spend around €10,000 paying that person’s bills instead of directly paying the journalist a fee or salary.
“It is customary, for example, that we go to brunch with them, but if we publish a report, we also take care of them. They are more likely to write these things if you have a communications package,” Orsolya Jeney, the former director of Amnesty International, told Hungarian news portal Origo.
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Although this example applies to journalists, with politicians and officials, you can go much farther, such as a spoken or outspoken promise of a well-paid “honorary” board position at an NGO or corporation, often after they leave their position. Paid speeches are also a very lucrative option, one which U.S. politicians have made tens of millions. The revolving door between the corporate, non-profit, and political world is the status quo in the Western world, and especially in Brussels and Washington.
However, the obscene amounts of money being paid out by the Qataris likely not only made it harder to hide that money, but it probably also infuriated the journalists and other politicians making far less for their entirely legal bribes. It is almost tempting to think that the surprisingly extensive coverage of the latest EU corruption scandal may be born out of fear and jealousy that Qatar simply set the price of bribes too high. The Middle Eastern country entirely distorted the market for this kind of thing by throwing around that kind of money.
Qatar can overcome its poor image
Some may say that Qatar has the type of reputation that makes it difficult for an MEP or European official to openly lobby for the country. However, hundreds of so-called liberals have worked for Al Jazeera, despite the news outlet being funded by a state known for having no form of democracy and being governed by sharia law. George Soros also never let his background as an unscrupulous currency speculator or his insider trading conviction get in the way of being the darling of the entire left-liberal establishment.
This should all be an inspiration to Qatar. The formula is there. The country just needs to spend the money, build the NGO and media networks, and work within the system. It should also not be forgotten that Qatar not only has an enormous amount of money, but the country’s gas will also likely be needed to keep the lights on in Europe after the continent cuts itself off from Russian energy.
Be careful who you bribe
If Qatar cannot be bothered with the whole NGO network and legal bribery and wants to continue down the path of illegal bribery, it is important the country picks the right people to work with.
There were already warning signs from MEP Eva Kaili. Although officially a Socialist, she was the type of person who had a penchant for private jets, silk scarves from Hermes, and romps on Greek islands. As Focus online details, her Instagram is full of glossy shots of her jet-setting around the world and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, including Greek oligarchs. She liked to flaunt her lifestyle, and as any good criminal knows, if you suddenly illicitly make hundreds of thousands, it is best to keep it quiet. Instead, Kaili was reportedly looking to buy luxury property in Brussels shortly before she was arrested.
Apparently, Kaili was not very quiet about her bribe money either, openly speaking to her accomplice over the phone while Belgian investigators listened in. She may not have been, in the end, the type of person Qatar could rely on to hide that kind of bribe money. Perhaps the oil-rich kingdom can do better next time around.