New details revealed about EU Parliament corruption scandal – ex-Latvian diplomat involved

Europe Materials 30 January 2023 18:04 (UTC +04:00)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, January 30. The MEP corruption scandal in the European Parliament is spreading. The Belgian police have seized nearly 1.5 million euros in cash, as they investigated corruption within the European Parliament. Evidence was found that illicit scheme involved Qatari and Moroccan officials influencing EU institutions with gifts and money.

According to the Latvian TV3 program “Nekā personīga”, former Latvian diplomat and Advisor of the center-left Socialists & Democrats group to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Eldar Mammadov is also involved in the scandal.

The arrested adviser confessed to the crimes and is ready to name all those bribed in the Parliament. Currently, Mammadov has been suspended from his duties and prefers not to talk to the media, while the investigation is underway.

Before the FIFA World Cup, Qatar was criticized a lot. Qatar lacked many of the stadiums needed to stage the tournament. To build them, the country used migrants working in exploitative and dangerous conditions, according to exposed videos. Most of the migrants who worked at the construction site, died due to inhuman conditions. The image of Qatar needed to be urgently improved, and the European Parliament was to be set up favorably towards this country of the Persian Gulf. There were several issues on the agenda, including a visa-free regime with the EU.

Operation "Mezzo", or the biggest scandal in the history of the European Parliament, began less than a year ago. Belgian secret services raided the home of Antonio Panzeri, a former Italian lawmaker in the European Parliament, and found a bag with 700,000 euros. Panzeri was unaware of the visit.

Investigation materials obtained by the German Der Spiegel news magazine allow several meetings at the five star Sofitel Brussels Europe to be restored. At that hotel, representatives of the Qatari government met with Panzeri, who helped prepare a speech for them at the meeting of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights in November 2022.

One such event was also attended by Francesco Giorgi, the partner of ousted European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili. MEPs needed to make sure that Qatar implemented serious reforms. Kaili has also publicly defended Qatar and criticized colleagues for hypocrisy.

The regular and long-term bribery of MEPs became known at the end of December 2022. Following the arrest of her partner Giorgi and ex-MEP Panzeri, Kaili tried to hide the evidence and denied any wrongdoing. However, law enforcement officers found a suitcase with cash hidden baby carriage. The MEPs have already voted to remove Kaili from office, as immunity does not save an official if he/she is caught red-handed.

Apart from Qatar, another country that has tried to buy influence in European institutions is Morocco. Two thirds of the country's foreign trade accounts for the EU. Morocco also wants to garner political support in the conflict over Western Sahara, while the EU is counting on the Moroccan government to prevent African migrants from entering Europe.

Liaison with the Moroccan government each time took place through different persons. Those involved knew that their actions were illegal because they used a certain code during talks. Panzeri later established an NGO called "Fighting Impunity" to legalize bribes. During interrogation, the group members admitted that they also worked for Mauritania and Saudi Arabia.

So far, all corruption charges have been targeting a group of social democrats. Investigators suspect two other parliamentarians from this faction – Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino – of being associates of Panzeri. In mid-February, parliament will have to vote to lift their immunity at the request of the Belgian investigating authorities.

At the end of December 2022, a group of social democrats removed their political adviser from his post due to a corruption scandal. This was done because there had been a serious breach in relation to the ongoing investigation, which was promptly brought to the attention of the Belgian police. The message doesn't mention the name of the dismissed official, but Nekā personīga reveals that this is to be a Latvian citizen Eldar Mammadov, who has worked in the European Parliament for more than ten years.

Meanwhile, Mammadov opposed the official position of the faction in favor of a resolution recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. Some members of the faction also pointed to his special stance towards the Iranian regime.

Mammadov is a part of the once influential Mammadov family in Latvia: his father owned the Riga Bus Transportation, as well as the Latvian Road Transport Administration for some period of time.

Born in Riga, Eldar Mammadov started his career in the Latvian banking sector managing the Parex Bank's office in Azerbaijan. Later, he served briefly at the embassy in Spain and then in Washington. According to the unofficial source, Mammadov was recalled from the US embassy for having too close ties with Iranian representatives in the US.

Since 2000, Mammadov has participated in events organized by the Baltijas Forums of the Harmony Party leader Janis Urbanovich. In 2014, he ran for the European Parliament elections on the Harmony Party list, but was not elected.

MEP Nils Ushakov (Harmony) explains: "Mammadov was not a member of the Harmony Party, but we cooperated quite actively. He worked in the European Parliament in 2008 or 2009. He served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies, and then in the Parliament. And it was quite logical that, participating in the elections to the European Parliament, not being a party member, Mammadov was also on the list."

"Yes, if I'm not mistaken, we worked with a new team, and a person who has worked in the European Parliament for more than 10 years in a leading position would be a good choice. But he didn't participate in that time," Ushakov replied, when asked if Mammadov's candidacy to the Seimas [the unicameral parliament of Lithuania] was also discussed.

Spanish media also points to Mammadov's close friendship with MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who heads the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

The Socialists & Democrats group has two MEPs from Latvia – Nils Ushakov and Andris Ameriks. None of them knows the reason why Mammadov was removed from his duties.

“Can’t say anything bad about Eldar Mammadov either, I just don’t have such information and knowledge,” said Ushakov. “We didn’t cooperate much at this stage, because he deals with foreign affairs, and I'm working with the budget."

"I have nothing to do with Qatar. Mammadov has been working in the relevant group for a very long time. We have to wait for the results of the investigation," Ameriks stated.

Several parliamentary sources told Spanish-language outlets that Mammadov most likely accepted an offer to spend his vacation in Qatar watching World Cup football matches.