Lawyers seek release of suspect in EU corruption scandal

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Lawyers for a former European Parliament vice president suspected of being at the center of one of the European Union’s biggest corruption scandals requested Thursday her release from prison with a police tracking device.

Belgian prosecutors accuse Eva Kaili of corruption, membership in a criminal organization and money laundering. She has been in custody since Dec. 9. Her partner, Francesco Giorgi, an adviser at the European Parliament, is jailed on the same charges.

The two are suspected of working together with Giorgi’s one-time boss, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former EU lawmaker. According to arrest warrants, Panzeri “is suspected of intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, against payment.”

Judges in Brussels were considering whether to release Kaili, a Greek former TV news presenter. Members of her legal team said they expected a decision later Thursday.

“We’ve asked that … Kaili be put under a system of electronic surveillance, with a bracelet,” her Belgian lawyer, Andre Risopoulos, told reporters outside the courthouse.

Risopolous said Kaili “is playing an active role in the investigation. She rejects all corruption allegations against her.” He and Kaili’s family lawyer from Greece, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, declined to comment further on the hearing.

Kaili, 44, was removed from her post at the European Parliament last week after charges were laid against her. The EU assembly has halted work on files involving Qatar as it investigates what impact the cash-and-gifts-for-influence bribery scandal might have had. Qatar vehemently denies involvement.

The scandal hit the spotlight as Qatar hosted the soccer World Cup. The small, energy-rich Gulf nation has seen its international profile rise as Doha used its massive offshore natural gas fields to make the country one of the world’s richest per-capita, and to power its regional political ambitions.

Morocco has yet to respond to allegations that its ambassador to Poland might have been involved.

Belgian prosecutors are also seeking the hand-over of Panzeri’s wife and daughter from Italy, where they were put under house arrest on similar charges.

A fourth suspect in Belgium – Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary-general of the non-governmental organization No Peace Without Justice – was also charged over the affair.

The scandal came to public attention earlier this month after police launched more than 20 raids, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy. Hundreds of thousands of euros were found at a home and in a suitcase at a hotel in Brussels. Mobile phones and computer equipment and data were seized.

Dimitrakopoulos visited the politician in jail on Wednesday for several hours. He suggested that Kaili blames her partner Georgi, with whom she has an infant daughter, and that she posed no flight risk.

“She is very troubled; she feels betrayed by her partner. She trusted him, he contradicted her,” Dimitrakopoulos told Greek reporters. “A person who has lost their freedom is miserable, and when they have a 2-year-old child waiting for them, which is in essence an orphan because its father is also in jail, they are even more miserable.”

According to transcripts of Giorgi’s Dec. 10 statements to prosecutors, which Italian newspaper La Repubblica and Belgian daily Le Soir said they had obtained, Giorgi confessed to managing the money on behalf of an “organization” led by Panzeri.

“I did it all for money, which I needed,’’ Giorgi told prosecutors, La Repubblica reported. He also tried to protect his partner, asking that Kaili be released from jail.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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