An attorney for EU lawmaker Eva Kaili, who is accused of being involved in an alleged bribery scandal involving a Gulf state, says money found in his client’s Brussels home did not belong to her, while a Cypriot MEP says he was troubled by her colleague’s stance towards Turkey’s ally Qatar.
Kaili, a Greek MEP and former vice president in the EU parliament, was scheduled to appear before a Belgian judge on Wednesday following her arrest amid a corruption investigation.
'Money doesn’t just grow. Her husband or partner put it there. Ms Kaili has nothing to do with that money'
Belgian prosecutors are charging Kaili and three others with corruption in a major investigation into an alleged illicit influence campaign by a Gulf state, believed to be Qatar according to media speculation.
But attorney Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, who says the detained MEP told him from her jail cell that she never took a bribe in her life, says Kaili “has expressed her complaints over the stance of her European Parliament colleagues."
"She says she feels betrayed when they make her appear as if she had a personal agenda with Qatar and when they hint that she was taking bribes," he said.
Cypriot MEP says he informed Nicosia about Kaili
Suspicions about Qatar had emerged around the time when Cypriot MEP Loukas Fourlas contacted Nicosia about Kaili’s stance towards Doha, which is thought to have good relations with Ankara.
Fourlas told state radio earlier this week that Kaili had approached him to ask for changes in a Qatar report. It was understood that the report was damning for the Gulf state.
“When I saw the changes, and they were about Qatar, I smelled a rat and I called up foreign ministry director Korneliou,” Fourlas said.
The MEP went on to say he refused to make any amendments that would have said Qatar was not as strict on human rights and the crackdown on homosexuality.
“It had to do with issues that watered down the strict tone of the report,” the Cypriot MEP said.
Partner, crypto legislation, and Gulf tech
But Dimitrakopoulos insists his client rejects any money connection with Qatar, adding that her male companion, Italian national Francesco Giorgi, ought to give an explanation about cash found in their apartment.
“Money doesn’t just grow. Her husband or partner put it there. Ms Kaili has nothing to do with that money,” Dimitrakopoulos said.
Giorgi, who works as an assistant in the office of an Italian MEP, is also a suspect in the case.
Belgian police reportedly believe Giorgi has direct knowledge about €600,000 found in the apartment and other areas, including a bag in in the possession of Kaili’s father.
Giorgi is reportedly an adviser on the Middle East and North Africa region in the European Parliament. He is also the founder of Fight Impunity, an NGO that promotes “accountability as a central pillar of the architecture of international justice.”
The Greek MEP, also known as EU’s blockchain booster, has been spearheading efforts for legislation on cryptocurrency in Europe, with lawmakers demanding greater transparency in the old continent for all transactions big or small.
She also spoke favorably on Qatar's efforts concerning reforms ahead of the World Cup during a controversial speech in Parliament.
Last month at a conference in the United Arab Emirates, Kaili had been invited to speak on a panel on leadership in a changing world.
The Gulf States have recently been investing a lot into new efforts to reinvent themselves as tech hubs.
Kaili’s attorney has suggested that his client did not do anything different from others in bloc seeking to improve relations with the Gulf, including European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Metsola, who is also half Greek, announced this week a reform process on lobbying and transparency rules for EU lawmaker, adding there would be “no impunity" for those found guilty of corruption.
"Make no mistake, the European Parliament, dear colleague, is under attack. European democracy is under attack," Metsolsa said during the opening of December's plenary session.
"Qatar is Turkey's main financier, we cannot launder Qatar"
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 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.