There is conflicting information about a corruption investigation in the European Parliament following the arrest of a Greek former VP, with media reports speculating she was being detained in connection with Qatar while her lawyer is pointing the finger squarely at Italian suspects including her male partner.
Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP suspected of corruption involving a Gulf state, remains in detention along with her male partner and a former lawmaker, while a fourth suspect walked out of jail on Wednesday with an ankle bracelet monitor.
A Belgian judge on Wednesday questioned Kaili’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, and former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, during a remand hearing according to Belgian media, while Italian media identified a fourth unnamed NGO director as Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary-general of No Peace Without Justice.
But the media jury was still out on whether prosecutors were probing alleged bribes to Kaili from World Cup 2022 host Qatar.
Belgian prosecutors said they were charging the four suspects with corruption in a major investigation into an alleged illicit influence campaign by a Gulf state.
Kaili maintains that upon hearing about dirty cash in the couple’s residence she had asked her dad to get the money out and deliver it to its owner
Over €1.5 million in cash has been discovered at the homes of Kaili and Panzeri as well as in a suitcase that was being delivered to an unknown person by the Greek MEP’s father.
Attorney Michalis Dimitrakopoulos says that Kaili maintains that she had asked her dad to get rid of money “upon hearing about the money in the couple’s residence and to whom the cash belonged.”
But Dimitrakopoulos, who spoke to MEGA in Greece, said he could not reveal the cash owner, citing a gag order issued by a court.
“You need to look at the Italians,” he said.
The lawyer went on to say that “there was no need for Qatar to give money as a bribe to Ms Kaili because she went to Qatar as a representative of the European Parliament.”
He also pointed out that European Parliament President Roberta Metsola had sent Kaili to Qatar, referring to the jailed MEP’s visit last month to Doha.
Doha has rejected any allegations of misconduct saying that "any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed".
But Kaili had received criticism from some colleagues over her efforts she had carried out to lobby for changes in a damning Qatar report.
Cypriot MEP Loucas Fourlas, who says he had broached the subject of Qatar with Kaili, says he found it odd that his Greek colleague would refer to Doha as a facilitator between Turkey and Europe.
“Qatar is Turkey's main financier, we cannot launder Qatar,” Fourlas said.
But Kaili was not lobbying for Qatar according to Dimitrakopoulos.
“Mrs Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, sent her there, she did not go on her own initiative, she was a representative of the European Parliament,” he said.
According to Reuters, Belgium’s intelligence services have worked closely with European countries for more than a year to uncover the scandal.
Kaili reportedly told her lawyer from her jail cell that she never took a bribe in her life.
Dimitrakopoulos also suggested that Kaili and Giorgi were taking a break as a couple, adding that the MEP's partner could reveal the identity of the person to whom the illicit money belonged.
Reuters also reported that investigators in Italy were combing through seven bank accounts related to the suspects, adding that they found 20 grand in cash at a house belonging to one suspect.
But Kaili’s role in the investigation did not become clear on Wednesday after reports said she did not appear in court. She is expected to remain behind bars until she appears before a judge next week.
“She has expressed her complaints over the stance of her European Parliament colleagues,” Dimitrakopoulos added.