Three MEPs took the bait and were employed by the fake lobbying company on a yearly salary of â‚¬100,000. One of those was 56 year old former Romanian deputy prime minister, Adrian Severin, who apparently emailed the journalists posing as lobbyists writing â€œJust to let you know that the amendment desired by you has been tabled in due timeâ€. He then sent an invoice for â‚¬12,000.
The other two MEPs caught up in the scandal was Slovenian foreign minister Zoran Thaler, and former Austrian interior minister Ernst Strasser. It is said that Ernst additionally boasted about serving at least five commercial clients who each paid him â‚¬100,000 per year.
These are pretty shocking revelations. But the most telling quote in the Sunday Times expose comes from Adrian Severin, â€œI didnâ€™t do anything that was, letâ€™s say, illegal or against any normal behaviour we have hereâ€. As organisations that WDM works with like Spinwatch and Corporate Europe Observatory have long shown, dodgy lobbying by big corporations in this way is commonplace all over Europe, and the world.
But the bigger picture is even more alarming.
We all know the banks are in urgent need of reform. Unchecked speculation was responsible for causing the greatest economic crisis in several generations, throwing hundreds of thousands out of their jobs, and resulting in the current mass cut backs in vital public services across the world.
Now, as our report The Great Hunger Lottery has shown, the speculative activities of investment banks and hedge funds are also pushing up the price of food. With prices again rising we are at risk of seeing another food crisis, similar to that of 2007-2008 which pushed millions into deeper poverty.
WDM is campaigning hard for this speculation to be curbed, with proposals for regulation currently being discussed in the European Parliament. Todayâ€™s Sunday Times investigation is incredibly worrying as it once again demonstrates what weâ€™re up against. The banks have some of the most well-funded and powerful lobbyists in the world and they are hard at work trying to stop any reforms to their speculative activities.
But donâ€™t be fooled into thinking this is just a Brussels problem. London - at the heart of the banking industry - is home to some of the biggest and most influential financial lobby groups. In Brussels banking reform is currently high on the agenda, with MEPs recently supporting a Robin Hood tax, while in the UK the government seems intent on climbing into bed with the banks. Over here the lobbyists are winning.
We must continue to campaign and call on our political representatives to finally stand up to the banks for the good of the economy and for some of the poorest people in the world.
This is big news buried by Japan and the Libyan distractions.