By Marine Strauss
BRUSSELS, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Belgium launched an investigation on Friday examining possible corruption involving an unidentified Gulf state and assistants working in the European Parliament, the federal prosecutor said.
The Belgian federal prosecutor said 16 houses were searched in Brussels on Friday as part of a major investigation into alleged offences of criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.
“For several months, investigators of the Federal Judicial Police have suspected a Gulf country to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, this is done so by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament,” the prosecutor said in an emailed statement.
A spokesperson for the European Parliament told Reuters it would not comment on a continuing judicial investigation, but would work together with local authorities if needed.
About 600,000 euros ($633,300.00) in cash was recovered and computer equipment and mobile phones were seized, the prosecutor said. Four people, born in 1955, 1969, 1971 and 1987, were arrested for questioning, including a former EU lawmaker, and may be brought before the investigating judge, the prosecutor said.
($1 = 0.9474 euros)
(Reporting by Marine Strauss, additional reporting by charlotte Van Campenhout and Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by William Maclean)