It's Christmas in jail for former European Parliament vice president, Belgian court rules

Eva Kaili will remain in detention in Belgium after the court ruled against early release from pre-trial arrest as the Qatargate probe widens • S&D suspend key political advisor and refer him to police

Greek socialist MEP and former EP Vice President Eva Kaili remains in jail (Photo: Alain Rolland/EU)
Greek socialist MEP and former EP Vice President Eva Kaili remains in jail (Photo: Alain Rolland/EU)

Former European parliament vice president Eva Kaili will spend the Christmas holidays in jail, a Belgian court ruled on Thursday.

The court extended the pre-trial detention of Kaili with one month despite her lawyers arguing for her release with an electronic tag.

Kaili has been in jail for nearly two weeks after being arrested and charged with corruption and money laundering linked to Qatar’s lobbying operation in Brussels.

The widening police probe has also seen the arrest and imprisonment of former Italian socialist MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi, who worked as an assistant to Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian Socialist MEP.

Another suspect in the case, Niccolò Figà-Talamanca — secretary general of the NGO No Peace Without Justice — was put under electronic surveillance last week, but the federal prosecutor in Belgium has appealed this decision and wants him locked up as well.

The scandal has rocked the European parliament, particularly the group of Socialists and Democrats, which yesterday suspended key foreign affairs advisor Eldar Mamedov and referred him to the Belgian authorities after an internal investigation into alleged foreign interference in Brussels.

The scandal centres around alleged influence buying by Qatar and Morocco. Since 10 December, Belgian federal police conducted a series of 20 raids across homes and offices in Brussels, seizing mobile phones, computers and more than €1.5 million in cash.

Kaili can appeal the decision within 24 hours, and have her case reassessed within 15 days. Her Greek lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said they won’t appeal the ruling.

Through her lawyers, Kaili, who was elected to the EP in 2019 on the ticket of S&D’s Greek affiliate, has denied any corruption on her part and claims not to know anything about a suitcase full of cash found at an apartment she shares with her partner.

In comments to Greek TV after Thursday’s court hearing, Dimitrakopoulos said Belgian prosecutors had argued Kaili should not be released from jail because there was a risk that Qatari police forces could send spies to kidnap her and take her to Qatar. He also accused the prosecutor of acting politically to show that authorities in Brussels are “relentless.”

Kaili was suspended from her role as vice president by EP President Roberta Metsola the moment she was arrested and later stripped of the role by MEPs in an almost unanimous vote.