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Corruption scandal: MEP Eva Kaili to remain in prison, Belgian judge orders

Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP at the centre of the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, has been ordered to remain in prison for at least one additional month.

The decision was taken by a Belgian judge after Kaili showed up for a hearing on Thursday.

“In its order this morning, the pre-council chamber confirmed the pre-trial detention of E.K.,” said a short press release by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office, using the accused’s initials.

Kaili has the right to appeal the decision within 24 hours.

During the hearing, Kaili appeared exhausted and couldn’t hold back tears when talking about her 23-month-old daughter, a source with knowledge of the judicial process told Euronews, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“What Ms Kaili has experienced in the cell in the Federal Police Station in Brussels looks like Medieval Times,” said her lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, prior to Thursday’s hearing, insisting she is innocent.

“She couldn’t even sleep, this was forbidden, she was in the cold, they took her coat, she was left in a cold room and she was refused a second blanket and was not allowed to wash. All these are tortures.”

Four people in detention

Kaili was arrested on 9 December and charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering.

The Greek legislator is suspected of accepting “large sums” of cash and gifts across an illicit lobbying operation, allegedly involving Qatar and Morocco, with the aim to influence EU policy-making.

Up to €150,000 in cash was reportedly found at Kaili’s home in Brussels, which she shared with her life partner, Francesco Giorgi, and their daughter.

Her arrest shocked Brussels and led to her removal as one of the European Parliament’s vice-presidents.

Besides Kaili, three people remain in prison as part of the ongoing probe: Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.

The Belgian authorities have requested the lifting of immunity of two additional socialist MEPs: Marc Tarabella (Belgium) and Andrea Cozzolino (Italy). Both deny any wrongdoing.

Panzeri, the presumed ringleader, signed this week a deal with Belgian authorities under which he admitted his guilt and agreed to share “revealing” and “substantial” details with investigators.

His lawyer told Euronews the Italian had confessed to participating in “acts of corruption in connection with Qatar and in connection with Morocco” and that he was “at least one of the leaders of an organisation that had as one of its objectives to corrupt people”.

Qatar and Morocco have vigorously contested the claims.

Who is Eva Kaili?

The Greek MEP was considered a rising star among the ranks of the socialist group (S&D). Known as media-friendly and approachable, Kaili was first elected to the European Parliament in 2014, running with the centre-left PASOK party, and was re-elected in 2019.

In January 2022, the 44-year-old was named one of the parliament’s 14 vice presidents, a culmination of her legislative work in digital topics such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and blockchain.

Although Kaili was mostly focused on the EU’s digital agenda, in early November she travelled to Qatar and held one-on-one meetings with the country’s top leaders, including the prime minister.

Weeks later, she delivered a speech before the plenary defending Qatar’s labour rights in the context of the controversial FIFA World Cup.

“The World Cup in Qatar is proof, actually, of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historical transformation of a country, with reforms that inspired the Arab world,” she told MEPs.

In early December, she voted in favour of visa liberation for Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens.

Following her arrest, Kaili was expelled from PASOK and the S&D group. Technically speaking, she is now a non-attached MEP, with a post-tax base salary of €7,146 per month.

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