Beijing sends two new “pandassadors” to Washington

Beijing sends two new “pandassadors” to Washington
Beijing sends two new “pandassadors” to Washington

Searches were carried out on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg as part of an investigation by Belgian justice into suspicions of Russian interference and corruption. These splatter the far-right German MEP Maximilian Krah.

“The federal judicial police in Brussels (…) carried out searches on May 29 at the home of a European Parliament employee in Schaerbeek (municipality north of Brussels) as well as at his office at the European Parliament in Brussels” , announced the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office in a press release.

A search was also carried out in the office of this assistant at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, “in close collaboration with Eurojust and the French judicial authorities”, adds the prosecution.

According to a Source close to the matter, the person targeted is Guillaume Pradoura, former French parliamentary assistant to Maximilian Krah, of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who is at the heart of a scandal for his alleged links to China and Russia.

Paid to relay Russian propaganda

The searches “are part of a case of interference, passive corruption and membership in a criminal organization, and concern indications of Russian interference, according to which members of the European Parliament were allegedly approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the ‘information website’ Voice of Europe”, specifies the federal prosecutor’s office.

“There are indications that the European Parliament employee in question played an important role in this affair,” the same Source said.

Guillaume Pradoura is now an assistant to MEP Marcel de Graaff, a member of the Forum for Democracy, a Dutch eurosceptic and conservative party. He was also an assistant to French MEP Nicolas Bay, and excluded from the National Rally (RN) in 2019 following the publication of a photo with anti-Semitic connotations.

Money paid to elected officials

Questioned by AFP, Maximilian Krah’s spokesperson stressed that this ex-collaborator had no longer worked for the German MEP “for two years”. But it is rather these former functions which are targeted, according to the Source close to the matter.

The investigation was launched by the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office in April, after the identification of an influence network financed by Moscow.

Prague revealed at the end of March the discovery by the Czech intelligence services of such a network which spread Kremlin propaganda via the “Voice of Europe” site, to denounce in particular Western military support for Ukraine in the war launched by Moscow. .

According to the Czech and Belgian authorities, the platform was also used to secretly provide financial support to elected officials to relay messages from Moscow. The site was recently placed on an EU sanctions list, and banned from distribution.

Elect pro-Russian candidates

In Germany, Maximilian Krah, head of the AfD list for the European elections on June 9, is the target of a preliminary investigation by the Dresden public prosecutor’s office for suspicion of Russian and Chinese financing.

This 47-year-old former lawyer admitted to having appeared twice on the “Voice of Europe” website, but denied having “received money for this”.

One of his collaborators, Jian Guo, was accused by the German courts of having spied on behalf of Beijing in the very heart of the European Parliament. Following his arrest in April, this assistant was suspended, and his office in the Brussels Parliament was searched.

For his part, the number two on the AfD list for the European elections, Petr Bystron, saw his office in the German Chamber of Deputies searched on May 16 by the police, due to suspicions of illegal financing from Russia .

The EU is concerned about foreign interference as the European elections approach. According to the Belgian intelligence services, “Moscow’s objectives are clear: to help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European Parliament” and “to strengthen the pro-Russian discourse within this institution”, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo indicated in April .

This article was automatically published. Sources: ats / afp

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