BRUSSELS – Greek Member of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, in pre-trial detention in Belgium awaiting trial on accusations of taking bribes from Qatar, reportedly used her position there to support a technology business mostly owned by her sister.
In a report, POLITICO said that Mantalena Kaili is the majority owner in the Made Group which in 2018 created a non-profit arm called ELONtech, which worked in artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.
Blockchain is an advanced database mechanism that allows transparent information sharing within a business network, storing data in blocks that are linked together by a chain.
That was a prime cause for Kaili in the Parliament – she was a Vice-President before being stripped of those duties – where the report said she was a cheerleader for its use, noting that she presented a resolution on blockchain technology in 2018.
The European Parliament’s panel for the future of science and technology (STOA) – which Eva Kaili then led – launched its Centre for Artificial Intelligence in December 2019, the report added.
ELONtech was aligned with that and the sisters were a tandem working on it, as were Eva Kaili’s parliamentary staff, it was said, adding that Mantalena Kaili was Managing Director of ELONtech and Eva Kaili was an adviser.
One of ELONtech’s editors, Dimitris Tzanidakis, also appears in Eva Kaili’s list of assistants on the European Parliament’s website, while ELONtech’s senior legal counsel Alexandros Spyridonos appears on the same list of parliamentary aides as a service provider, the report added.
In 2020, Eva Kaili launched an international advisory board for STOA, the European Parliament’s advisory body for the EU’s innovation priorities and included a representative from her sister’s business – and from the Qatar Foundation.
It’s unclear though what ELONtech’s activities are apart from holding events and defining itself as an “observatory” and “platform” for legal and technology issues, the transparency site LobbyFacts.eu saying the company had been a registered lobbyist in the EU until 2020.
Made Group has not published its accounts, but according to EU data has received large sums of EU funding for its projects, to which Eva Kaili offered support, also said POLITICO.
ELONtech’s website was taken offline after Eva Kaili – along with her partner and two others – were arrested in the bribery scandal at the same time Qatar – embarrassed that it broke during the World Cup it was hosting – denied any wrongdoing. The website went back up, with the staffers names removed.
SETTING THE AGENDA
Mantalena Kaili said that was done to preserve the “discretion” of the organization’s advisers and volunteers. Asked why she also deleted her name, she said that “it was not a secret” that she was running ELONtech.
ELONtech’s most recent event, held in the first week of December, was the Athens Roundtable on AI, hosted by Eva Kaili in the European Parliament.
The sisters have often been seen together at technology events and have been involved in one another’s projects. The lobbying group Industry Commons, of which Mantalena Kaili is on the steering board, described her as “head policy advisor and close collaborator in the office of her sister, Greek MEP Eva Kaili,” although this is not confirmed on Eva Kaili’s parliamentary profile page. The description was removed by Industry Commons from its site.
Mantalena Kaili told POLITICO that she worked for her sister “as an assistant based in Athens” and was registered in Greece under a specific contract that she said “was allowed for MEPs.”
As of 2021, Mantalena Kaili was listed as ELONtech’s sole administrator, and co-founder along with Matina Kanaki, according to documents filed with the Athens Chamber of Commerce. Kanaki was also listed as an assistant to Eva Kaili in February 2020.
In November 2022, Kanaki became the manager of Estate Aria Properties, a real estate business set up by Eva Kaili and her partner, Francesco Giorgi. Giorgi, who is from Italy, who admitted taking bribes but absolved her.
Made Group would participate in several Horizon 2020-backed digital projects, including an international consortium that developed ChildRescue, an app to find missing migrant children.
Mantalena Kaili’s organization was in charge of communications, receiving 104,037.50 euros ($110,848) from 2018-20 and it also supported tasks for other technologically-driven causes, receiving more EU funding.
Speaking to POLITICO, Mantalena Kaili disputed the extent of the overlap between Made Group and the work her sister conducted in Brussels. “We had activities that weren’t explicitly following Eva’s agenda,” she said.
A press release from her said Made Group “has participated in various projects, programmes, studies and events in cooperation, on a case by case basis with a broad team of not permanent associates and volunteers.”
The press release also underlined how ELONtech “is not a legal person (not a company) and it definitely it is not an NGΟ and it has not received a single euro in financing,” it added.