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Politics

Greek MEP Charged in Qatar Bribery Case Says Innocent, Wants Release

BRUSSELS — Eva Kaili, a Greek Member of the European Parliament arrested in a bribery case involving Qatar allegedly trying to buy influence in the European Union, pleaded innocent Dec. 22 in court and asked to be released with electronic surveillance.

Kaili had been stripped of her duties as a Parliament Vice-President, ejected from her PASOK Socialist party and suspended by the Parliament’s Socialists & Democrats who also had been accused of being soft on Qatar labor rights violations.

Her lawyer Andre Risopoulos told reporters at the Palace of Justice in Brussels that Kaili was “cooperating in an active manner” with the Belgian Federal prosecutor’s investigation that’s ongoing.

“We’ve asked that … Kaili be put under a system of electronic surveillance, with a bracelet,” he told reporters outside the Brussels courthouse where judges were considering whether to release her. Risopolous said that Kaili, a Greek former TV news presenter, “is playing an active role in the investigation. She rejects all corruption allegations against her.”

Lawyers for former European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, right, and Andre Risopoulos, second right, speak with the media at the courthouse in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Kaili said she asked her father to take a suitcase filled with 600,000 euros ($637,710) from her Brussels home as her partner, Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary assistant was arrested and confessed, absolving her of blame.

Also arrested was a 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, which officials said was bribe money from Qatar.

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.

Lawyers for former European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, second right, and Andre Risopoulos, third left, speak with each other as they leave the courthouse in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Her father has been released, while she, Giorgi and his  Panzeri remain in Belgian prison as investigations continue.

“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 also 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.

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