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Politics

Greek MEP Facing Qatar Bribery Charges Will Stay in Detention

ATHENS – Greek Member of Parliament Eva Kaili won’t know until Dec. 22 whether she’ll be let out of jail when a court will hear the case of her alleged involvement in a bribery scheme said conducted by Qatar.

Kaili was stripped of her duties as Parliament Vice-President and booted from her PASOK Socialist party, ensnared in a brewing scandal that has seen three others also charged, including her partner Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant.

The government of Qatar, already fending off charges of bribing FIFA officials to host the World Cup, denied any wrongdoing and said any claims about bribing members or Parliament staff were “gravely misinformed.”

Kaili’s lawyers have told Agence France-Presse that she is innocent and will fight the charges but offered no explanation why police said they found 150,00 euros ($159,285) in cash in her Brussels home and 600,000 euros ($637,140) in a suitcase carried by her father in a hotel.

The four were arrested as Belgian police conducted a series of searches at the homes and offices of politicians, lobbyists and parliamentary assistants, seizing around 1.5 million euros ($1.59 million) in cash.

They all due to attend a pre-trial hearing in Brussels on Dec. 14 to find out whether they would remain in custody pending their trial as the growing investigation continues in a major embarrassment for the Parliament.

All four had been due to appear together in a pre-trial hearing in Brussels on But Kaili’s Brussels lawyer, Andre Risopoulos, told AFP she had been unable to attend the hearing because of a staff strike at her detention center, and her case would be separated from that of alleged accomplices.

Also caught up were Italian former MEP turned lobbyist Pier Panzeri, head of the anti-corruption group Fight Impunity that Giorgi helped found and  Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, who leads the human rights pressure group No Peace without Justice, the news agency said.

“The case has been split,” Risopoulos said, adding that she was now expecting a custody hearing on Dec. 22 after her lawyer in Athens, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, insisted she was innocent and “did not know of the existence” of the cash found at her Brussels home.

Dimitrakopoulos suggested that Giorgi was behind it and might have “answers about the existence of this cash,” apparently trying to shift blame to him and indicating she knew nothing about it.

Giorgi and Panzeri were remanded in custody and Figa-Talamanca was released pending trial but ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, the Federal prosecutor said.

Kaili had gone to Qatar, where some media reports said as many as 6500 foreign workers died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup and returned to praise the country on the floor of Parliament.

Greece’s ruling New Democracy initially didn’t respond to the scandal – it’s fighting off one of its own over alleged use of spyware – as it’s trying to make the port of Alexandroupoli a hub for transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU and Qatar is a major supplier.

As Kaili remained in jail, her colleagues in the Strasbourg parliament scrambled to distance themselves from the scandal, stripping her of her vice presidential role and promising a wave of transparency reforms, also noted AFP.

Speaking for the first time on the case, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was “undermining… democracy at a time when populism prevails,” and added that, “It undermines the prestige of Europe.”

Among those released was Luca Visentini, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, a global labour body that has pushed Qatar on labour rights., the report also added.

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