BRUSSELS. Still insisting she’s innocent, Greek Member of the European Parliament Eva Kaili said she asked her father to take a suitcase filled with 600,000 euros ($637,710) from her Brussels home as her partner was arrested.
She was among four arrested, including her partner and former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri from Italy, in police raids which were said to have found another 150,000 euros ($159,427) in her home.
Authorities said it was bribe money from Qatar – which was then hosting the World Cup it was accused of getting by bribing soccer officials – the country’s leaders wanting visa-free travel in the European Union for Qataris.
Qatar denied any wrongdoing but evidence is mounting up with media reports showing it was trying to peddle influence in the EU through the Parliament, which has little real power.
Kaili’s father was arrested Dec. 9 in the Brussels Sofitel hotel with a suitcase full of cash. According to the arrest warrant for the Greek MEP issued on the same day and cited in Belgian media, she admitted that she had instructed her father to hide the money, said POLITICO.
Her father has been released, while she, her partner Francesco Giorgi and his Panzeri remain in Belgian prison as investigations continue. She is due in court on Dec. 22 where it will be decided whether she can be released.
“When her husband was arrested, it was in a nearby area in the garage, but they were together. It was not announced what the reason (for the arrest) was,” Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, Kaili’s lawyer in Greece, told local radio.
“At that moment, she learned about the contents of the suitcase from her partner. One option was to turn him in to the police, the second was to take the money to its owner. She has no obligation to report her husband under European law,” he said.
Dimitrakopoulos said that Kaili tried to call Panzeri and others to take the money that belonged to them, “the dirty money.” The lawyer added: “She called her father to come. ‘Come on now, take these things, go to your room in the hotel, and a man will come and get them,’” the lawyer said.
But he insisted that she is totally innocent “without footnotes and asterisks” while remaining in detention, stripped of her duties as a Parliament Vice-President, ejected by her PASOK party in Greece and suspended from the Parliament’s Socialists & Democrats.
Dimitrakopoulos later said that Kaili “never claimed that she knew or participated in the acts of which her partner is accused, never had ownership or possession of the money found in the shared apartment. She has never in her life taken a bribe.” Her lawyers in Belgium wouldn’t comment.
The Belgian newspaper Le Soir and La Repubblica said she had “partially confessed” to receiving bribes while her lawyer denied it, the report adding that she knew Panzeri was corrupt.
“It is true,” Kaili reportedly told investigating judge Michel Claise. “I knew about the activities of Panzeri. And I knew there were suitcases full of money in my house,” but said her partner got the money and she didn’t know it.
He earlier confessed to taking bribery money he said he didn’t need and absolved her and Claise is also reported to have received a “partial confession of the facts” of corruption from Panzeri but no details were given.
Kaili’s legal team vehemently condemned both Le Soir’s and La Repubblica’s reporting, one attorney – André Risopoulos – telling the Belgian paper that, “I am personally outraged that you have had access to these documents.”
He said publishing the information violated her rights to a fair trial and that the characterization of Kaili’s testimony as a “partial confession” was a “biased interpretation” of what she said in her testimony.