June 23. 2024. 2:08

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Qatargate: MEP Tarabella’s release gives hope to Eva Kaili

The Belgian justice’s decision on Tuesday to release MEP Marc Tarabella with an electronic bracelet has given hope to Greek MEP Eva Kaili that she will have a similar treatment at a hearing on Thursday, EURACTIV was informed.

Tarabella, who was excluded from the S&D group and saw his parliamentary immunity lifted, is accused of public corruption, money laundering and being member of a criminal organisation due to his alleged involvement in the cash-for-influence scheme known as Qatargate.

He was placed in detention on 10 February and has since asked to be released on bail.

The Belgian MEP was accused by former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri (S&D) of having received large sums of money in exchange for softening his stance on Qatar, but since the outbreak of the scandal, he has claimed his innocence.

On Tuesday, it was announced that he would be released from prison and be able to return home under an electronic monitoring device.

“We have just learned with relief of the imminent release of Marc Tarabella. He remains, of course, at the investigators and the investigating judge’s disposal if, by any chance, they feel like they need more information,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

“It should be remembered that Marc Tarabella has always claimed his innocence […] He has always said that he has nothing to reproach himself and that he has never received any money or gifts in exchange for his opinions,” he added.

What gives hope to Kaili

For now, only Greek MEP and former European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili remains in jail.

On Thursday (13 April), the Belgian authorities will re-examine her request to be released with an electronic bracelet. According to a source close to the matter, what gives hope to Kaili is that both she and Tarabella have declared innocence.

“I believe that the decision on Tarabella may influence the case of Eva Kaili”, her Greek lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said on Tuesday without elaborating.

The alleged mastermind of the Qatargate, Pier Antonio Panzeri and Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi have already been released with an electronic bracelet. However, both admitted their guilt in the scandal.

According to press reports, Panzeri, who made a deal earlier this year with the Belgian authorities to collaborate and give names involved in the scandal, named Kaili a key figure in the organisation.

Brussels-based lawyer Spyros Pappas, who collaborates with Kaili on another open case related to her assistants’ salaries in the EU Parliament, told EURACTIV that the only criteria for continued detention is the possibility of falsification of information or her potential escape.

“On the basis of which her detention is not objectively justified,” the source said.

Another source close to the matter did not rule out the possibility that the Belgian authorities would keep Kaili in jail to pressure her to plead guilty.

“Belgian investigative magistrate Michel Claise may ‘smell’ something, but for now, there has been no sufficient evidence of her guilt”, the source said.

“If this evidence exists, it remains to be proven at the main trial when it takes place,” the source added.

The same source hinted that it is “unacceptable” that since she was imprisoned, Kaili has been unable to exercise her parliamentary duties and that the European Parliament authorities did not even make an effort in this direction.

“While at the same time convicted far-right MEP for directing the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party as a criminal organisation, Giannis Lagos, participates in the EU Parliament’s sessions”, the source said.

Kaili has been imprisoned since 9 December 2022.

First, Kaili’s partner was arrested by Belgian police, and when she was informed about his arrest, she called her father, who was in Brussels and asked him to go to her place and take a suitcase which, according to her, belonged to the alleged “mastermind” of the Qatar-gate, Antonio Panzeri.

Asked by the Belgian authorities if she knew there was money in the suitcase, Kaili replied that she realised it when she opened the briefcase.

Kaili also hinted that Panzeri took advantage of her MEP immunity to hide his money in her apartment.

A source told EURACTIV in January that from all accusations Kaili faces, it would be hard to prove she was not involved in money laundering.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)