Czech member of the European Parliament Jan Zahradil is facing a formal investigation into whether he failed to properly disclose financial support from the Chinese Mission to the EU, Dutch media reported.
In a letter to Dutch investigative magazine Follow The Money, a senior official confirmed that European Parliament President David Sassoli had instructed a group of key MEPs to investigate whether Zahradil followed the institution’s rules.
A European Parliament spokesperson said “possible procedures related to the code of conduct are confidential” and declined to comment on whether an investigation was ongoing.
Zahradil, a prominent conservative MEP and vice chair of the International Trade Committee, chaired the EU-China Friendship Group, an informal club of China-friendly MEPs, until it was recently suspended by Zahradil after POLITICO reported on security concerns surrounding the group.
The Czech lawmaker told POLITICO in November that the Chinese mission picked up the catering bill for the event in 2019. In his invitation to the event, he promised “champagne and canapés” to his guests. The sponsorship of the event did not appear in official financial declarations by the Czech MEP, nor in those filed by a handful of members presumed to be part of the informal group.
Zahradil’s statement triggered concerns among other lawmakers that he failed to properly report the sponsorship in his financial declarations. The head of the Parliament’s official China Delegation, German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, in February called on Sassoli to investigate and sanction Zahradil.
The letter sent to Follow The Money said Sassoli had asked the Advisory Committee to look into “any potential breach of the obligation for members to declare any support received in relation to the activities of the EU-China Friendship Group.”
The controversy over the Chinese sponsorship followed longstanding concerns over the role of the EU-China Friendship Group, which promoted friendly relations with Beijing at the European Parliament and was seen by critics as a mouthpiece for Chinese propaganda.