The Council of Europe has decided to exclude 14 former members, including Belgian members Alain Destexhe and Stef Goris, from its Parliamentary Assembly, who were accused of accepting gifts and bribes from the government of Azerbaijan in 2013.
The Assembly criticised these parliamentarians, cited in a report investigating allegations of corruption, for having violated the “Code of Conduct” of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The Committee on the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly “decided that they should be definitively deprived of the right of access to the premises of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly”, said the Council of Europe in a statement .
In the future, they will no longer be allowed to participate in any Council activity, says the text of the resolution.
The decision, voted by PACE members, is based on the findings of a commission set up after allegations of corruption revealed by a German NGO ESI.
Among the accused parliamentarians are Belgians Alain Destexhe and Stef Goris, Italian Luca Volonte, Spaniard Agustin Conde, three Azerbaijanis, a Slovenian, a Finn, a Norwegian, a Swede and a Pole.
Added to this is Karin Strenz, a German MP from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, and former German MP Eduard Lintner from the Christian Social Union (CSU), a Bavarian ally of the CDU.
The Council of Europe scandal, sometimes dubbed “Caviargate” by some media, dates back to January 2013. It involves members or former members of PACE suspected of having been “bought” by the government of Azerbaijan, in exchange for a negative vote against a report denouncing the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Some parliamentarians would have received in return for their vote benefits that, according to a source close to the pan-European institution, would have consisted of caviar from the Caspian Sea, carpets, or nights in luxury hotels.
In October, PACE President Pedro Agramunt of Spain, named in the “Caviargate” case and in a controversial meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, resigned.
The PACE, which brings together 324 parliamentarians from the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, including the 28 members of the EU, has been meeting this week in Strasbourg for a summer session.