Judge to decide on MEP’s detention in Qatar corruption scandal


Lawyers for Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP detained in connection with an alleged bribery scheme at the European parliament, have asked a Belgian judge to release her under electronic surveillance.

A decision on whether she should be released is expected to be made by the judge on Thursday after a private court hearing.

André Risopoulos, the MEP’s lawyer in Belgium, said Kaili was actively co-operating with the investigations. “She rejects any corruption allegations against her,” he added.

Kaili and three others have been charged with corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organisation for allegedly accepting cash, expensive holidays and other gifts to influence EU policy towards countries such as Qatar and Morocco, according to legal documents seen by the Financial Times.

The bribery investigation has shaken the Brussels establishment because it implicates legislators, non-governmental organisations and foreign powers, prompting soul-searching in the European parliament.

The allegations emerged as Qatar basked in the world’s attention as the host of the football World Cup, a tournament that brought unprecedented scrutiny of the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers, ban on homosexuality and use of its wealth to bolster its role in the world.

MEPs passed a softer-than-expected resolution on human rights in Qatar ahead of this month’s tournament, with Kaili praising Qatar as a “frontrunner of labour rights”. She also voted in favour of granting Qataris visa-free travel to Europe and sought to persuade other members to follow suit. The full parliamentary vote has now been suspended.

Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, a lawyer Kaili has retained in Greece and who was present at the court hearing, said his client was innocent. “She has never been bribed. Ms Kaili is innocent,” he said.

Dimitrakopoulos said on Wednesday Kaili had been betrayed by her husband Francesco Giorgi, the father of her toddler. “She trusted him, he betrayed her,” he said.

Giorgi, a parliamentary aide, was arrested along with Kaili and two others: former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, Giorgi’s former boss and the head of Fight Impunity, a human rights NGO; and Niccolò Figa-Talamanca, who ran a different human rights group, registered at the same address as Panzeri’s.

Giorgi has confessed to prosecutors to handling cash for Panzeri’s alleged scheme, according to local media reports verified by the FT. The others deny the charges.

The Greek anti-money laundering authority on Thursday said it had put an asset freeze on a plot of land on the island of Paros bought by Kaili and Giorgi, pending an investigation into the activities of the couple in Greece. The authority also froze their joint bank account that was used to purchase that land in March 2022.

This week, Dimitrakopoulos said that the purchase of the property had been legal and that the money used to buy it came from Kaili’s income.

On Wednesday, Dimitrakopoulos said Kaili had discovered a large amount of cash in their shared home but she did not want to report Giorgi to the police. He said she asked her father to take the “dirty money” and hand it over to a man at a hotel.

Alexandros Kailis, the MEP’s father, was arrested during a police operation earlier this month carrying a suitcase containing €750,000 in cash at a Sofitel hotel near the European parliament in Brussels. He has since been released without charge.

Giorgi was arrested on the same day, after police found €150,000 in cash at the home he shared with Kaili.

Panzeri, who is suspected to have run the corruption scheme, was arrested after police seized €600,000 in cash at his home. He denies any wrongdoing.

Figa-Talamanca was ordered to be released under electronic surveillance last week, but remains in custody for at least another week, as prosecutors have challenged the judge’s order. Figa-Talamanca’s family says he is innocent. His lawyer declined to comment.


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