Eva Kaili (the one with that sports bag full of money) in court in an EU corruption case | Abroad
It’s been almost two weeks today since a potentially massive corruption scandal in the European Parliament came to light following searches and arrests in Brussels, Strasbourg and Italy. One of the most high-profile suspects, MEP Eva Kaili, will appear in court today. Who is she and what is she suspected of?
Aged 44, Kaili was one of fourteen presidents of the European Parliament on behalf of the Social Democratic Group. With this position, the Greek is one of the most eye-catching suspects. A total of ten arrests were made as part of the investigation into possible influence from Qatar and Morocco. These two countries would have liked to influence decision-making in the European Parliament.
The affair was revealed in the Belgian media on Friday 9 December. Belgian police raided several offices in the European Parliament building in Brussels in the early evening. What started as rumors turned into a potentially massive and highly publicized corruption scandal, with more and more suspects emerging.
Kaili was arrested by Belgian police during the roundups on December 9 with a sports bag full of cash. Because she was caught red-handed, her parliamentary immunity could be revoked. Subsequently, she was expelled from her party and from the Social Democratic group. She also lost her title of vice-president after a massive majority in parliament voted for her.
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Kaili rose to prominence in her home country as a newsreader on the channel MEGA Channel. After her television career, she joined the social-democratic party PASOK. There she was a parliamentarian for seven years, after which she decided in 2014 to stand for election to the European Social Democratic Group. In parliament, she rose through the ranks until she was elected one of 14 female vice-presidents in January.
According to colleagues, she is pursuing a solid pro-Qatar background within the group. Infamous was his statement to Parliament that the Gulf State is “a frontrunner in the field of labor rights”. This is a remarkable statement, given the massive unrest (including within the European Parliament) over the appalling conditions in which Qatari migrant workers had to build stadiums and infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup.
Het schandaal in het kort:
- Sinds vrijdag 9 december zijn er tientallen politie-invallen geweest op locaties in Brussel, Straatsburg en Italië.
- Daarbij zijn tot nu toe zeker tien mensen aangehouden.
- Zij worden ervan verdacht geld te hebben aangenomen van Qatar en Marokko. Die landen zouden invloed hebben willen uitoefenen op de besluitvorming in het Europees Parlement.
- Qatar ontkent nadrukkelijk iedere betrokkenheid bij het schandaal.
- Bij de invallen werden 1,5 miljoen euro cash, computers en mobiele telefoons in beslag genomen.
Corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization
Kaili is suspected of taking money from “a Persian Gulf state”. She also allegedly lobbied illegally for that country. Although the criminal investigation does not mention Qatar by name, everything points to this country, according to Belgian and international media.
The Greek vice-president participated in a vote in the parliamentary committee on the relaxation of visa rules for Qatar and Kuwait. Parliament adopts this proposal review.
The MEP is currently detained on suspicion of involvement in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption. The investigation into these three criminal offenses concerns four people: Kaili, his friend Francesco Giorgi, the former Italian MEP Pier Antoni Panzeri and Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.
Kaili, Giorgi and Panzeri are still being held and will learn today if they should be held longer. Figà-Talamanca is free under supervision. He wears an ankle bracelet.
The pivot of the investigation is Panzeri, leader of the organization Fight Impunity (loosely translated: Fight Impunity). It is associated with the influence of Qatar and Morocco. His wife and daughter were also arrested at their home in Italy.
Figà-Talamanca is president of the organization No Peace Without Justice. This organization is linked to Fight Impunity. Giorgi, the fourth prime suspect, is the co-founder of Fight Impunity.
The investigation quickly widened after the searches on Friday, December 9. In addition to the four suspects charged, six other arrests were made. They can all be directly or indirectly related to the Panzeri organization.
Alexandros Kaili, Eva’s father, was also arrested when he wanted to leave a Brussels hotel with a suitcase filled with “hundreds of thousands of euros”. Later statements by Eva Kaili reveal that she ordered her father to hide the money from her. This is one of the many insane details that emerge from the criminal investigation.
This week, it was also announced that Giorgi admitted in Belgian justice that he was part of an organization used by Qatar and Morocco to exert influence on the European Union. This was reported by journalists from the Belgian newspaper The evening and the Italian newspaper The Republic who had seen the criminal investigation.
Deep cracks in the democratic foundations of the EU
Whatever the Court’s decision today, it is clear that deep cracks have appeared in the democratic foundations of the EU. Parliament is the only body elected directly by election. It is therefore the response to the democratic deficit of which the EU is often accused.
It is precisely for this reason that the case is so popular in Brussels. There is a lot of outrage that things can go so wrong in a democratic organization.
It is clear that even after today, the final word on this corruption case has not yet been spoken. It appears to be a gigantic iceberg with only the top protruding from the water.
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