Belgium Member of the European Parliament (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament - Parti Socialiste) Marie Arena. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


Qatargate: Police find almost €300,000 in cash at home of son of MEP Marie Arena


Just over €280,000 in cash was discovered during a police raid at the home of the son of Belgian MEP Marie Arena.

On July 19, Belgian police searched six locations linked to Arena and her family, almost a year into the Qatargate investigation.

The money, “including some banknotes bundled together”, was found in the Brussels’ apartment of Arena’s son Ugo Lemaire, 32, which is an “adjacent residence” to that of the Socialist MEP, according to Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir.

Arena reportedly opened the door to Lemaire’s flat to let the police conduct the search, as he was not home at the time.

The origins of the money are not yet known and no link has been established to the Qatargate file as it stands.

Lemaire is the co-founder of BRC&Co, a company specialising in the sale of CBD, legal cannabis with its psychotropic substance removed. The firm’s headquarters were also searched by police.

On December 12, 2019, Arena hosted a conference on what was entitled the Cannabis Renaissance at the European Parliament. The event was held in collaboration with the pro-cannabis non-profit organisation ACTIVE, of which Lemaire was and still is president.

Maxim Töller, the lawyer for Qatargate suspect Marc Tarabella, told Belgian media: “I am glad to see that the change of judge [Michel Claise, the former lead investigator in the scandal] has led to a change in strategy that has already borne fruit. But what would the investigators have found if they had been allowed to search earlier?”

Belgian judge Claise stepped down in June amid allegations of a conflict of interest. He and Arena have known each other for at least five years and had friendly relations. Their sons worked together in BRC&Co.