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Eva Kaili. Alamy Stock Photo
Eva Kaili

Greek MEP at centre of Qatar-linked corruption scandal faces key court ruling

Eva Kaili was arrested last week during a series of police raids across homes and offices in which at least €1.5 million in cash was seized.

LAST UPDATE | 14 Dec 2022

THE GREEK MEP central to an EU parliament graft scandal is awaiting a key ruling that may keep her behind bars, as she argued innocence in a case allegedly tied to World Cup host Qatar.

A Belgian court is set to decide whether Eva Kaili, who was removed from her vice president post yesterday, and three co-accused will remain in custody pending trial in the corruption case.

Kaili’s arrest came during a series of police raids across homes and offices in and near Brussels in which at least €1.5 million in cash was seized.

The government of Qatar has denied any connection to any wrongdoing in the case.

Questions have also been raised in relation to Sports Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, because of his recent visit to Qatar, and his praise for Qatar’s “far-reaching reforms,” but Schinas denied any wrongdoing.

Speaking this afternoon in Strasbourg, Commissioner Schinas, stood by his public record and said people were right to be angry about the scandal. 

“I’m glad that the parliament has already taken immediate action against those who are being investigated and is working hard to earn back the trust that been lost,” he said.

When asked if he had received gifts while at the World Cup, the Greek politician said:

“Yes, I have received a football, a box of chocolates,” he said. “I think that I left both to the driver that was driving me to the stadium. 


A Belgian judicial source told AFP that investigators believe that figures representing the Gulf nation’s monarchy had been paying off European politicians to burnish the country’s image.

Qatar is a key energy supplier to Europe, and plays an important intermediary role in several diplomatic tangles.

But it has also been criticised for the alleged mistreatment of migrant workers, most notoriously those who built the World Cup stadiums.

As Kaili sat in a Brussels jail cell, her colleagues in the Strasbourg parliament scrambled to distance themselves from the scandal.

The 44-year-old former television news presenter is the only serving MEP to have been charged. But several more have had their offices put under police seal while investigations continue.

She was arrested last week during a series of raids by Belgian graft investigators on the homes and offices of several MEPs and their assistants or associates.

‘False rumours’

A Belgian judicial source, confirming reports in Belgian newspapers Le Soir and Knack, said €600,000 were found at the home of Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, €150,000 in Kaili’s flat, and €750,000 in her father’s hotel room.

Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told AFP that she “did not know of the existence” of the cash found at her home.

Her lawyer said she was “innocent”, and he denied what he said were “false rumours” that she had received bribes from Qatar.

He said her partner, Francesco Giorgi, who was taken into custody this afternoon, could have “answers about the existence of this cash”.

Giorgi will be held in pre-trial custody for at least a month, his lawyers have stated.

Qatar denies any involvement in European corruption.

“Any claims of misconduct by the state of Qatar are gravely misinformed,” an official has told AFP.

Brussels has been rocked by the claims, and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, defending the integrity of the EU legislature, has sought to portray the alleged bribes as an assault on democracy.

Kaili was one of seven people detained. Five have been charged with “criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering” and two released.

One of those released was Luca Visentini, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, a global labour body that has pushed Qatar on labour rights.

© AFP 2022