European Parliament’s former vice president Eva Kaili attends a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 11 July 2023. EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND


Qatargate: Kaili shifts spotlight to fellow Socialist Marie Arena

Kaili said Arena was "more involved" in the Qatargate scandal, where several MEPs are alleged to have taken bribes from nations like Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence over EU policy


Eva Kaili and her lawyer have pointed the finger at Belgian MEP Marie Arena in a TV interview.

Kaili and her defence lawyer, Sven Mary, said fellow Socialist Kaili was being “scapegoated”, while the prosecution and media did not focus enough on Arena.

She and Mary said Arena was “more involved” in the Qatargate scandal, where several MEPs are alleged to have taken bribes from nations like Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence over EU policy.

Mary claimed sections of the press in Belgium have been “selective”.

“There has been a character assassination against her [Kaili],” he said, adding that large sums of cash were found at other premises linked to some of those regarding the investigation, including Arena.

“My client was not targeted in the first report of the Secret Service, and not in the second,” Mary said.

“They don’t talk about Ms Kaili. They speak about other people.”

“Other names turn up in the report, but some haven’t even been questioned, even though large sums of money were found there just as well,” he added, referring to Arena and her son.

“We can ask questions about this, can’t we? Especially now we know that the son is an associate of the son of the then investigating judge. People have to question this. People say Eva Kaili is a unique case, but she is not.”

Asked where all the cash found in her house and with her father came from, Kaili replied: “I know we had money at home, my partner’s salary given to Panzeri. He had been paying this salary for years, hoping to get the money back at some point.”

Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP, was arrested and accused of being central to Qatargate. Police found more than €600,000 in cash at his home.

He now is a “co-operating witness” in the case and has secured a plea bargain.

In the TV interview Kaili continued: “Later, I found a bag that wasn’t ours. I realised it must be Panzeri’s. I called the police. I couldn’t reach Francesco, [Giorgi, her partner and a fellow suspect in Qatargate] and no one knew anything. I asked my father to take the baby until I could contact my lawyer.”

The Greek MEP said she called Arena to return the bag and Arena told her where to leave it.

“I thought it was a good idea; we decided to call the police and return this bag to its owner,” Kaili said.

Kaili’s father was picked up by the police after he left his Brussels home carrying a suitcase containing €720,000. Officers also discovered two travel bags containing €158,000 in Eva Kaili’s apartment.

“My father wasn’t aware; he thought it was something for Panzeri,” Eva Kaili claimed, saying she thought it was the “right thing to do” to return the money to its owner.

Kaili pointed to Panzeri, the former EU lawmaker who admitted guilt and what was his pivotal role in the scandal.

The Greek MEP claimed she has nothing to do with Qatargate. “My fingerprints are not on the money, I’m not in the file, and I’m not involved. There was surveillance, if I were involved, they would have known,” she insisted.

When Qatargate broke, she was held in custody regardless of her European parliamentary immunity, which is legally possible if someone is allegedly caught red-handed.

Prosecutors said she was under suspicion because she had allegedly sent her father away with a suitcase full of cash, something that is now disputed in court.

Kaili’s lawyer claimed there was no offence, adding that the police had her under observation “for months”.

“Ms Kaili and Mr Giorgi are two people living together with a child. They have a safe belonging to Mr Giorgi,” Mary said.

“It appears that the money kept there comes from his salary and was given in cash following a loan from Mr Panzeri. The rest belongs to Mr Panzeri,” he said.

According to Kaili, Giorgi had given a loan to Panzeri. The latter had been fined by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office and a young Giorgi, who wanted to work in the EU, agreed to grant a loan of over €100,000 to his boss.

“If Ms Kaili had really wanted, at that time, for the origin of this money to be unknown, the money would have stayed at her place, since her house has immunity”, Mary continued. “You just cannot enter her house like that.”

After the Greek MEP was remanded in prison, she was unable to see her 20-month-old daughter for four months. After her release, she was allowed to remove her electronic bracelet in May.

“I feel stronger now that I can see my daughter. I also have access to my file; I have the evidence and facts to prove the innocence I have claimed since day one,” she said.

Kaili is back working in the European Parliament.