Iranian-Armenian lobbyst caught in Qatargate corruption scandal
    Social Democrats in the EP got rid of Eldar Mammadov

    WORLD  30 January 2023 - 17:48

    The corruption scandal in the European Parliament is snowballing. Belgian police have seized a million and a half euros in cash, which were also found to be from members of the EP. Evidence has been obtained that the governments of Qatar and Morocco were paying officials to influence European Union institutions in favour of those countries. According to TV3 Nekā personīga, former Latvian diplomat and in fact Armenian-Iranian lobbyist Eldar Mammadov, to whom Caliber.Az has repeatedly paid attention in its articles, is also involved in the Brussels scandal.

    Caliber.Az reports quoting tvnet.lv that the arrested leader of the group confessed to the crimes and is ready to name all those bribed in the parliament. At the moment Mammadov is suspended from his duties, and while the investigation is underway, he has not commented on his involvement in the incident.

    Qatar came under criticism even before the World Cup. Videos have surfaced showing that the stadiums intended for the championship were built by migrants working in slave-like conditions. Many died on the construction site due to inhumane conditions. Qatar's image had to be improved urgently, and the European Parliament had to be encouraged to look favourably on the Gulf country. Several issues were on the agenda, including visa-free travel to the EU.

    Operation Mezzo, the most high-profile scandal in EP history, began less than a year ago. The intelligence services found 400,000 euros in cash in a suitcase under the bed in the house of former MP Pierre Antonio Panseri in Brussels. A similar amount was found in a home safe. Panseri was unaware of the secret visit and his subsequent meetings and conversations were monitored and recorded by Belgian investigators.

    Investigative material obtained by the influential publication Der Spiegel reconstructs several meetings at the five-star Sofitel Place Jourdan hotel. There, representatives of the Qatari government met with Panseri, who helped prepare a speech for them at a meeting of the EP subcommittee on human rights last November.

    Francesco Giorgi, an aide to one of the MPs and a partner of EP Vice-President Eva Kaili, was also present at one of these events. The MPs needed to be convinced that Qatar had made serious reforms. Kaili also publicly defended Qatar and criticised her colleagues for hypocrisy.

    The regular and long-standing bribery of MEPs came to light at the end of December last year. After learning about the search and arrest of her partner and Panseri, Kaili tried to hide the evidence. However, law enforcers found a suitcase full of cash hidden in a pram. MEPs have already voted to suspend Kaili as the official is not saved by immunity if 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 is with the EU. Morocco also wants political support in the conflict over Western Sahara, while the EU is counting on the Moroccan government to keep African migrants out of Europe.

    Communication with the Moroccan government was through a different person each time. Those involved knew their actions were illegal because they used code words - when they went to get money, they talked about taking a suit or tie. Panseri later set up a non-governmental organisation called Fighting Impunity to legalise bribes. When questioned, members of the group admitted that they also worked for Mauritania and Saudi Arabia.

    So far, all the corruption allegations have been directed at a group of Social Democrats. Investigators believe two other MEPs from that faction - Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino - are associates of Panseri. Parliament is due to vote in mid-February to lift their immunity at the request of Belgian investigative authorities.

    At the end of December, a group of Social Democrats suspended their political adviser because of a corruption scandal. This was done because there had been a serious irregularity in the ongoing investigation, of which the Belgian police were immediately alerted. The report does not mention the name of the suspended official, but Nekā personīga knows that he is a Latvian national, Eldar Mammadov, who has worked in the European Parliament for over a decade.

    Mammadov was a political adviser in the Foreign Affairs Committee and one of those who urged the Social Democratic faction to take a lenient stance towards Qatar. He also opposed the faction's official position in support of a resolution recognising Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. Some caucus members also pointed to his particular stance on the Iranian regime.

    Eldar's father owned the Riga Sanitary and Transport Bus Depot, and at one time also the Latvian Road Administration. Both of these companies were involved in large and dubious state and municipal procurements. Born in Riga, Eldar Mammadov began his career in the Latvian banking sector. He then experienced a meteoric career leap at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serving briefly as an embassy official in Spain and then in Washington, D.C., in the United States. According to unofficial information, Mammadov was recalled from the US embassy for having too close ties to Iranian representatives in America.

    Since 2000, Mammadov has been a frequent participant in events organised by the association Baltijas Forums of Concord party leader Janis Urbanovics. In 2014, he stood for election to the European Parliament on the Concord list but was not elected.

    Several parliamentary sources have told Spanish-language publications that Mammadov likely accepted an offer to spend a holiday in Qatar watching World Cup football matches.

    It should be recalled that over the years Mammadov has systematically written articles and posts on social networks aimed at discrediting Azerbaijan in the West.

    Caliber.Az

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