Police raid center-right party’s Brussels HQ

Police raid center-right party’s Brussels HQ
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 05 April 2023 04:48

Search is linked to German inquiry, party says.

BRUSSELS — Belgian and German police on Tuesday raided the Brussels headquarters of the conservative European People’s Party, the pan-European political party, the organization said in a statement.

The police search “is connected to an ongoing inquiry in Thuringia, Germany,” the statement read.

“The party is cooperating in full transparency with the authorities involved, providing all relevant information and documentation,” it added.

When POLITICO visited Tuesday afternoon, no police activity was ongoing at EPP offices on Rue du Commerce in the European Quarter. Employees at a hotel across the street said they had not noticed anything unusual in the morning.

German outlet Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk reported that the raid is connected to Mario Voigt — leader of the state parliament group in Thuringia for Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union — and his involvement in the EPP’s 2019 European parliamentary elections.

The local CDU lawmaker was recruited to support the EPP’s digital campaign in 2019. According to reports, the group then awarded a contract to an internet agency based in Voigt’s home state Thuringia, from which he is later suspected of having received money.

Since September 2022, German anti-corruption officers had been investigating Voigt on suspicion of bribery in business dealings.

An EPP official said that this is an “issue between a contractor who worked for the EPP during the 2019 campaign and one of his subcontractors in Germany.”

The EPP is a pan-European umbrella body of conservative parties, which is separate from the EPP group at the European Parliament. While the two entities have the same name, they have different offices located inside the Parliament’s building in Brussels.

Manfred Weber is the chairman of both bodies — he became the head of the EPP parliamentary group in 2014 and was elected president of the party last May.

Voigt’s lawyers, Nobert Scharf and Valentin Sitzmann, called the accusations “baseless” in a statement sent to POLITICO by the Thuringian parliament’s CDU branch.

The allegations “have not been substantiated and will prove to be baseless,” the statement reads, adding that Voigt has denied the accusations from the beginning and calling the proceedings “disproportionate and excessive.”

This story is being updated.

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