Written by 10:04 am European Union

Ex-European Parliament VP remains in custody as Qatar bribery probe continues

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European lawmaker Eva Kaili, who has been accused of accepting bribes from Qatar, has been ordered to remain in custody as investigations continue into one of the European Union’s biggest ever corruption scandals.

A Belgian judge refused a request to release Kaili, a Greek Member of the European Parliament who was stripped of her role Vice President earlier this month, ordering she remain in pre-trial detention for another month, as investigations continue into charges that she and others accepted bribes from Qatar and Morocco to influence decisions in the parliament.

Kaili was one of four suspects arrested earlier this month in Belgium, and prosecutors have charged her, along with her partner, Francesco Giorgi, an adviser at the European Parliament with whom she has a 2-year-old daughter, with taking part in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption.

The two are suspected of working with the head of an NGO as well as with a former MEP, turned lobbyist, Antonio Panzeri who, according to arrest warrants, “is suspected of intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, against payment”.

Cooperating with investigators

Kaili, a former television news presenter, has denied any wrongdoing and previously stated through her lawyer that she is innocent.

Qatar, which just hosted the football World Cup, has also strongly denied any wrongdoing. Morocco has yet to respond to allegations that its ambassador to Poland might have been involved.

Kaili’s Belgian lawyer, Andre Risopoulos, told reporters on Thursday that Kaili was cooperating fully with investigators and would not appeal the decision to keep her in custody, even if he had requested she be released under surveillance with an electronic tracking device.

Her Greek family lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told Greek Mega TV that the court’s decision was probably meant to set an example for other lawmakers that corruption will not be tolerated.

Blaming the boyfriend

Dimitrakopoulos told reporters on Wednesday that Kaili is “very troubled” and feels betrayed by Giorgi.

According to transcripts of Giorgi’s statements to prosecutors obtained by Belgian daily Le Soir and Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Giorgi confessed to managing the money on behalf of an “organisation” led by Panzeri.

“I did it all for money, which I needed,’’ Giorgi told prosecutors, according to La Repubblica reported.

He also tried to protect his partner, asking that Kaili be released from jail.

Remaining behind bars

A Belgian judge authorised Kaili’s arrest and detention on grounds she was allegedly caught red-handed with cash, meaning she could not invoke her parliamentary immunity.

During the raids that lead to the arrests and charges, Belgian investigators found 150,000 euros in cash in Kaili’s home. Her Greek lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said Kaili was unaware of its existence.

At a separate hearing on14 December for the three other suspects, the court ordered Giorgi and Panzeri to remain in jail, and allowed the NGO head, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, to be released with an electronic bracelet, which was suspended on appeal.

Panzeri’s wife and daughter were arrested in Italy under a European warrant and could face extradition to Belgium in January to answer charges.

(with wires)

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