Written by Piero Messina
It’s a ridiculous story. From any perspective you look at it. Eva Kaili, Vice President of the European Parliament was arrested by the Belgian police on corruption charges. Kaili would have pandered to the interests of Qatar, promoting the interests of the emirate in supporting the 2022 World Cup. There is the principle of the presumption of innocence. It must apply to Kaili and the 15 other people who are accused of having received money and gifts to change the narrative on the organization of the World Cup in Qatar.
Certainly the European Parliament looks bad. How is it possible that the European Parliament spends its time and European taxpayers’ money on topics that have nothing to do with collective interests? Let’s try to understand the facts. What is Eva Kaili accused of? and why is the World Cup in Qatar sparking inquiries everywhere?
These are today’s news stories: the accusations made by the federal judiciary against Kaili concern the attempt to “influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament’. The investigation has been going on for months. The judicial police arrests were issued today: a paradox, because 9 December is the day that the European Union dedicates to the fight against corruption. Among the clues against the Greek parliamentarian there are also tweets: on November 1, 2022, Kaili retweeted her meeting with Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, the Qatari labor minister: “The #EU official welcomed the #Qatar’s commitment to continue labor reforms after the #WorldCup2022 and wished a successful tournament.”
The suspicion of the Belgian magistrates is that money and luxurious gifts have arrived from Qatar and above all to defend the reputation of the soccer world championships. The four people arrested by the Belgian police are all Italian. Among them is the former european deputy Antonio Panzeri and the trade unionist Luca Visentini, The crime of “criminal organization”, corruption and money laundering is also contested. “The investigations – reads a note from the Brussels prosecutor – allowed the investigators to get their hands on 600,000 euros in cash. Computer equipment and mobile phones were seized, which will be analyzed as part of the investigation. In Panzeri’s home the police found five hundred thousand euros in cash which were seized.
So far the story. However, it is not difficult to understand the reasons that would have pushed Qatar to bribe politicians and staff of the European Parliament. The 2022 World Cup is an endless scandal. Just two days ago, another migrant worker died. The condolences of Fifa (the world football federation) have arrived but the show, as expected, goes on. To organize the football event, Qatar has invested a frightening sum: over 220 billion euros. To understand the economic effort, just make a comparison with the previous editions of the World Cup. The most expensive had come to cost a maximum of 18 billion.
In a social level, the event is a catastrophe that can never be erased. In the last six years, according to researchers’ estimates, more than six thousand foreign workers have lost their lives in Qatar to build the works necessary for the sporting event. From Brussels no one protested. Today, perhaps, we understood why.
The investigation by the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has been going on for months. But the suspicions of corruption linked to the Qatar World Cup have been going on since 2010. And they paint a scenario of geopolitical conflicts, indeed a real spy story.
Because it was at that time that the idea of having that sporting event held in the emirate was born. At the time the president of UEFA, the European football organization, was the Frenchman Michel Platini, a former star of world football and a great friend of the then French president Sarkozy. According to some reconstructions by the Italian media, it was precisely the support of France that tipped the balance in favor of Qatar.
The assignment of the World Cup to Qatar took place in 2010. All the world federations agreed in proposing a double candidacy. In 2018 it would have been Russia’s turn, while the 2022 edition would have headed for the United States. The world of football was trying to become a geopolitical actor to smooth out the tensions between the two great world powers. Failed mission. On the day of the award, the United States showed up at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich with ex-President Bill Clinton, a message from then-President Barack Obama, actor Morgan Freeman and the certainty of being awarded the prize. 2022 edition. However, the time for announcements arrived, and after awarding the 2018 edition to Russia (and not to England as planned), FIFA gave the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. A certain tension was created in the room: the United States did not believe they could lose, just as everyone else present did not expect it.
US Justice will rail against this decision. But despite worldwide investigations so far no Qatari authority has ever been found guilty of corruption. For American investigators, Qatar secured the World Cup by negotiating at the highest levels of international politics, for example by offering long-term partnerships on energy supplies, especially gas, which is the source of its great wealth.
Basically there is nothing new. The world of football is full of corruption and scandals. Weapon of mass distraction par excellence, the soccer ball is the secular amulet of half the planet. The main football events have always risked being manipulated and rigged for interests that have nothing to do with sport.
So, why be surprised if the very rich Qatar has decided to lobby for an event of global resonance? So, why be surprised by the many inquiries and reports that flock to that sporting event? Qatar has violated the majesty of Washington. And even if it’s about football, it’s a crime that cannot go unpunished.