The defense for Greek MEP Eva Kaili is raising hell after Belgian authorities released her partner in an ongoing corruption investigation, with one of her lawyers accusing Belgium’s criminal justice of operating against European legal culture.
Kaili, who was stripped of her VP duties in the European Parliament following her December arrest in what has been dubbed by media the Qatargate corruption case, remained in jail on Thursday as her male partner and father of her child, European lobbyist Francesco Giorgi, was let go with an electronic monitoring device.
Giorgi and former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, both Italian nationals, are suspected of wrongdoing involving lobbying activities and extortion schemes through NGO's in Morocoo as well as Qatar, where Kaili had official business as a European representative.
But after Giorgi’s release, Kaili’s Greek lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said it was a “paradox” that his client remained behind bars out of fear of evidence tampering.
Eyebrows have been raised after it emerged that Giorgi and Panzeri, both co-defendants who are cooperating for lighter sentences, had shared a cell for a number of weeks at St Gilles prison
“It is obvious that Belgium’s criminal justice system rewards criminals who confess their guilt and smashes those who fight for their innocence, institutionally scorning the presumption of innocence, a pillar of European legal culture,” Dimitrakopoulos said.
Eyebrows were also raised this week after it emerged that Giorgi and his mentor Panzeri, both co-defendants in the case, had been sharing a cell for a number of weeks at St Gilles prison in Brussels, while Kaili’s political immunity was quickly lifted by EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
Greek lawyer Spyros Pappas, who has filed an appeal against the European Public Prosecutor’s decision to request the immunity lift, says such an act was illegal.
The appeal has not been made public but media reports suggest Pappas claims Kaili’s immunity lift could not be based on being caught in the act of committing an offense as alleged offences took place between 2014-2020.
Pappas also argues that another condition for lifting immunity, that is, when a potential suspect is seen as likely to prevent authorities from conducting a full investigation, has not been met.
“The police raided her apartment after first arresting her father some miles away, outside a hotel, with the infamous suitcase presumably taken from her apartment,” Pappas said.
Kaili said after learning of Giorgi’s arrest she had called her father to pick up a suitcase from the couple's apartment and deliver it to its owner, later claiming the suitcase with cash belonged to Panzeri, the alleged mastermind behind Qatargate.
Both Giorgi and Panzeri have purportedly admitted some offenses and are expected to receive lighter sentences in Belgium, where a “guilty plea” procedure enables the prosecutors to negotiate a penalty.
Lawyer says Eva will not confess to crimes she has not committed
But Kaili is still fighting to prove her innocence according to her lawyers.
“Eva Kaili will manage, she will not confess to crimes she has not committed, she will continue to fight for her acquittal,” Dimitrakopoulos was quoted as saying.
Qatar and Morocco have denied any wrongdoing while media attention has also focused on lobbying activities at the European Parliament including what Metsola described last month as “revolving doors.”
“I have frequently drawn attention to the damaging effect of ’revolving doors’, whereby politicians and senior public officials bring their expertise, inside knowledge, and contacts to new jobs in the private sector. I therefore welcome the proposal for a ‘cooling-off’ period for former MEPs before they can engage in lobbying activities vis-a-vis the European Parliament,” she said.
Metsola also vowed to “cooperate with the European Parliament to ensure that the strengthened transparency and ethics framework can rebuild public trust in the EU’s democratic process.”