Brussels (CNN)Thieves have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to break into the offices of the European Parliament, according to a member who spoke to CNN.
European Parliament members' offices burgled during lockdown
With the headquarters in Brussels deserted, German MEP Nico Semsrott told CNN his office was broken into and equipment, including two laptops, were stolen. He said he believes "at least 50" of his colleagues' offices were burgled as he launched a social media campaign, tinged with humor, to highlight the apparent crime spree.
The European Parliament told CNN in a statement that it received reports of thefts in April, and that "investigations are ongoing," adding it was in contact with local police and authorities.
"We have offered help and support to the members affected and have put them in contact with the local police," the statement said. It did not give details on how many offices were targeted.
Italian MEP Massimo Casanova said on social media his office was broken into and ransacked, but that nothing of value was missing.
Writing on his official Facebook page Wednesday he said: "Nice unknown people broke into my office in #Brussels. They forced the locks of the cupboards in search of I don't know what, turned some stuff upside down."
He added that he had reported the incident.
The Parliament building in Brussels has been largely empty since March when strict measures were introduced as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus. MEPs and staff were encouraged to work from their home countries, and buildings were closed to external visitors.
Semsrott says he first alerted DG Safe, the Parliamentary security service, and Parliament President David Sassoli six weeks ago, urging them to "take action and tell every MEP that there is something serious going on."
In an email to colleagues Tuesday seen by CNN, Semsrott said "our only hope is to defend ourselves by doing what we do best: hopelessly printing message on paper," and included a link to download signs which said, "I politely ask you not to rob me," and, "please don't steal this."
MEPs from across political divides have posted pictures of themselves with the Semsrott's signs on social media.
Semsrott told CNN he was concerned about data contained on devices stolen from him, saying: "Of course there were private information and sensitive information on all these devices and from a democratic point of view this hurts the whole Parliament and democratic representation."
The Parliament said in a statement that extra measures have been put in place including, "additional security guards patrolling the perimeter and corridors and carrying out additional checks on the access to the building."