Belgium Initiates Investigation into Alleged Pro-Russia Network Paying MEPs

Simona Mazzeo

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Belgium launches investigation into alleged Russian payments to MEPs, aiming to counter interference in European elections. Concerns deepen over the Kremlin’s influence tactics. EU leaders to discuss at upcoming summit.

Prosecutors in Belgium have unlocked an inquiry into alleged payments by Russia to members of the European Parliament following a spying operation in Brussels, the Belgian prime minister has announced.

According to Politico, Alexander De Croo expressed Moscow’s objective was to dilute support for Ukraine in Europe. “Belgian intelligence services have affirmed the existence of pro-Russian interference networks with movements in several European countries and also here in Belgium. According to our intelligence service, the purposes of Moscow are very clear,” he stated. “The objective is to assist elect more pro-Russian candidates in the European Parliament and to support a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution. It’s very clear.”

The move deepens concerns that the Kremlin will endeavour to interfere with EU elections in June and comes after the finding by the Czech authorities of a Russian network attempting to influence the outcome of the ballot.

Does Belgium Suspect MEPs Receive Russian Payments?

“The [Czech] investigation indicates that Moscow has approached European members of parliament and has also disbursed European members of parliament to advance a Russian agenda here,” De Croo expressed. “Weakened European backing for Ukraine serves Russia on the battlefield. And that is the fundamental aim of what has been hidden in the last weeks. These are very serious concerns.”

Is Russian Interference Undermining European Elections?

A representative for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office stated the investigation was opened on Thursday under article 135bis of the Belgian penal code. De Croo conveyed he could not name names because this remained hidden and classified. But he said that upon ticket of the intelligence he was in touch with the Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, after the finding in March of a Russian disinformation procedure there aimed at influencing the outcome of European elections.

The network used the Voice of Europe media site documented in Prague, which had sanctions indicted on it by Czech authorities. The same week, the Polish security agency ABW carried out investigations which resulted in the finding of €48,500 and €36,000 in two separate raids. A Polish citizen was indicted and charged with alleged bribery of European parliamentarians to construct a Russian “zone of influence in Europe”.

Will Investigation Expose Kremlin’s MEP Influence?

De Croo stated that even if payments had been made in other jurisdictions, prosecutions in Belgium were feasible. “Our judicial officers have now established that this interference is subject to a prosecution. The cash payments did not take place in Belgium. But the interference accomplishes… We have a new national law which came into force last week. And it explicitly targets interference. So this is what we are doing on the Belgian level.”

De Croo stated he would be discussing the issue with EU leaders at a summit in Brussels next week to see if the declaration of Olaf, the EU anti-fraud investigations unit, required to be broadened.

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Simona Mazzeo is a journalist at Brussels Morning News. She is covering European Parliament, European Council, European Commission & Italy News. She is a law graduate and lawyer residing in Agropoli, has carved out a multifaceted career dedicated to justice and social advocacy. She actively serves as a delegated councilor for the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Bar Association of Vallo della Lucania, championing fair and equal representation within the legal system. Recognized for her expertise and empathy, Simona is qualified for registration in the list of Special Curators of minors in civil and criminal matters at the Court of Vallo della Lucania, ensuring the rights and interests of vulnerable children are protected throughout legal proceedings. Beyond her legal practice, Simona demonstrates a strong commitment to social causes. She is a founding member of the Free Lawyer Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing legal assistance to those who cannot afford it. Additionally, she leverages her knowledge and passion for social justice as a non-professional journalist, contributing insightful and informative pieces on relevant legal and societal issues. Through her diverse endeavors, Simona Mazzeo exemplifies dedication to legal excellence, social responsibility, and a fervent belief in equal access to justice for all.