Belgium investigates bribery of MEPs to spread Russian propaganda

The Belgian prime minister announced this Friday that the Belgian judiciary has opened an investigation into Russian “interference” in the European Parliament, following allegations that MEPs were paid to spread Kremlin propaganda. A process that comes less than two months before the European elections. “Our judicial authorities have now confirmed that this interference is subject to prosecution,” explained Alexander de Crewe. “Money transfer did not happen in Belgium, but interference did. As Belgium is home to EU institutions, we have a responsibility to protect the right of all citizens to vote freely and safely.

The head of government of Belgium, which holds the EU Council presidency until the end of June, also said the issue would be discussed at the European Council scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday next week. According to de Groove, Moscow's “clear” intentions are to “help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European Parliament and reinforce the pro-Russian narrative in that institution.”

The Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office confirmed to AFP that investigations into foreign individuals or entities suspected of “offering donations, loans or benefits” to gain influence began this Thursday. The offense is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine of one thousand to 20 thousand euros.

About a month ago, the Czech Republic already said its intelligence had uncovered a Russian propaganda network using EU lawmakers. site Voice of Europe news agency based in Prague. Now, Belgium says its own services have determined that some MEPs were paid to promote Moscow's propaganda.

“If there is some kind of bribery – and our services indicate that money has been paid – even if it takes two sides to make it happen, there are those who organize it, but there are also those who receive it,” De Crewe continued.

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MEPs are bound by strict rules on independence and ethics, and can face financial and other sanctions if they break them. The Green Group in the European Parliament and a Czech newspaper reported that MEPs from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland were suspected.

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