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Politics

Greek MEP’s Partner Admits Taking Qatar Bribes, Absolves Her

BRUSSELS – The partner of Greek Member of the European Parliament Eva Kaili reportedly said he was the one who took bribes from Qatar and that she was blameless although both remain jailed during a corruption probe.

Francesco Giorgi’s confession was reported first by the Belgian newspoaper Le Soir and the Italian paper La Repubblica in which it was said he told investigators that he “did everything for money (he) didn’t need.”

Police said they found 150,000 euros ($159,552) in the Brussels home of Kaili and Giorgi and another 600,000 euros ($638,209) in a suitcase being carried by her father at a Brussels hotel.

Kaili’s lawyer earlier had said that when when found out about the money that she told him to return it to its “owner” but the attorney said he couldn’t reveal who that was, and that her father was trying to do the same.

The two are jailed pending a hearing as are two others in the growing investigation, with accusations also against another Italian, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who with Giorgi ran the anti-corruption group Fight Impunity. The charges include corruption, money laundering and setting up a criminal organization.

Giorgi, according to the newspapers said that he was part of an organization used by Morocco and Qatar with the aim of influencing the two countries’ relations with Europe, although Qatar officials denied everything.

“I will do everything possible so that my partner is free and can take care of our 22-month -old daughter,” he reportedly told investigators, his confession said to be aiding the probe although it wasn’t indicated whether he was trying to take the fall to protect her.

The lawyer for Giorgi, who is currently in detention pending further investigation of the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, from the Reuters news agency.

The case came at a delicate time for Qatar, which is hosting the World Cup that will wrap up Dec. 18 with a finale between Argentina and France, the country accused by the US Justice Department of bribing FIFA soccer officials to win the bid.

“The State of Qatar categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct. Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed,” a Qatari official told Reuters.

In his confession, Giorgi also said he suspected Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella had received money from Qatar, a source close to the investigation said, but wasn’t named as developments continued.

Tarabella, who earlier said his home was searched as part of the Belgian investigation, has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Giorgi also said he suspected Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, in whose office Giorgi worked, had received illicit Qatari funds, the news agency report added, although it was unable to determine if Giorgi had provided any evidence for his allegations against Tarabella and Cozzolino.

Cozzolino did not respond to an emailed request from Reuters for comment but told Italian news agencies: “I am not under investigation. I have not been questioned. I have not been searched, nor has my office been sealed.”

Kaili had gone to Qatar and in November on the floor of the Parliament praised its labor rights record despite media reports that as many as 6500 foreign workers died building the facilities for the World Cup.

Investigators said they were looking into whether alleged bribes were paid to buy influence at the European Parliament which was to debate giving Qataris visa-free travel in the European Union but that has now been suspended.

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