Court says EU corruption scandal suspect must remain in jail
A former vice-president of the European Parliament suspected of being at the center of one of the European Union’s biggest corruption scandals is to be jailed for at least another month, Belgian prosecutors said on Thursday.
Prosecutors accuse Eva Kaili of corruption, membership of a criminal organization and money laundering.
She has been in custody since December 9th. Her partner Francesco Giorgi, an adviser to the European Parliament, is jailed on the same charges.
The two are suspected of working with Giorgi’s former boss, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former EU politician.
According to arrest warrants, Panzeri is “suspected of being paid to engage in political interference with MPs working in the European Parliament on behalf of Qatar and Morocco.”
Kaili’s lawyers had said she posed no risk of absconding and asked a Brussels court to release her under surveillance by wearing a police electronic tracking device.
However, prosecutors said in a statement that the court had “extended preventive detention… by one month.”
Your Legal Department has 24 hours to appeal the decision. If so, she could appear before the judges again within two weeks.
Earlier, her Belgian lawyer, Andre Risopoulos, told reporters that the 44-year-old Greek former TV news presenter was fully cooperating with investigators.
“She is playing an active role in the investigation. She denies all allegations of corruption against her,” said Mr Risopoulos.
He and Kaili’s family lawyer from Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, declined to comment further on the hearing.
Kaili was relieved of her post in the European Parliament last week after being charged.
The assembly has halted work on files concerning Qatar as it investigates the implications of the money and gifts bribery scandal for influence purposes. Qatar has vehemently denied any involvement.
The scandal came into the limelight when Qatar hosted the FIFA World Cup.
The small, energy-rich Gulf nation has raised its international profile as Doha has used its vast offshore natural gas fields to make the country one of the richest countries per capita in the world and boost its regional political ambitions.
Morocco has yet to respond to allegations that its ambassador to Poland may have been involved.
Belgian prosecutors are also demanding the surrender of Panzeri’s wife and daughter from Italy, where they were placed under house arrest on similar charges.
A fourth suspect in Belgium – Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary-general of the NGO No Peace Without Justice – has also been charged in the affair.
The scandal became public earlier this month after police carried out more than 20 raids, mainly in Belgium but also in Italy.
Hundreds of thousands of euros were found in an apartment and in a suitcase in a Brussels hotel. Mobile phones and computer equipment as well as data were confiscated.
Mr. Dimitrakopoulos visited the detained politician for several hours on Wednesday. He suggested that Kaili blames her partner Georgi, with whom she has a young daughter.
“She is very concerned; She feels betrayed by her partner. She trusted him, he contradicted her,” Mr Dimitrakopoulos told Greek reporters.
“A person who has lost their freedom is unhappy, and when they have a two-year-old child who is essentially an orphan because their father is also in prison, they are even more unhappy.”
According to transcripts of Giorgi’s testimony before prosecutors on December 10 obtained by Italian newspaper La Repubblica and Belgian daily Le Soir, Giorgi admitted to having managed the money on behalf of an “organisation” run by Panzeri.
“I did all this for money I needed,” Giorgi told prosecutors, La Repubblica reported. He also tried to protect his partner by asking for Kaili to be released from prison.