EU corruption scandal: Eva Kaili released from prison and put under house arrest

Eva Kaili was arrested on 9 December and charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering.
Eva Kaili was arrested on 9 December and charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering.   -  Copyright  European Union, 2022.
By Maria Psara & Jorge Liboreiro

Greek MEP Eva Kaili remains charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering.

Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP who has become the most recognisable face of the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, was on Wednesday granted her release from prison after more than four months behind bars.

The lawmaker will now be placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet, her lawyer, Sven Mary, confirmed to Euronews.

"I will not give more commentary, besides the fact that this is a logical decision that took too long to be taken," Mary said in a brief statement.

The information was also confirmed by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office.

The decision came as a surprise since it was announced a day before a scheduled appearance before a judge on Thursday morning.

Kaili will undergo regular hearings to either prolong or revoke the electronic surveillance.

The Greek lawmaker was first arrested on 9 December, when she was reportedly caught in the act and her parliamentary immunity was immediately lifted.

The 44-year-old lawmaker was then charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering, and later moved to the Haren prison, located on the outskirts of Brussels, as part of her pre-trial detention.

Her arrest sent shockwaves across Brussels and brought to light an investigation into a cash-for-favours scheme that involved "large" sums of money and "substantial" gifts allegedly paid out by Qatar and Morocco in order to influence European policy-making.

Both countries deny any wrongdoing.

Over €1.5 million in cash were seized by the Belgian police across dozens of home and office searches.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Kaili was removed from her position as one of the European Parliament's vice presidents and her party membership was suspended, a dramatic turn of events for a lawmaker who had until then been considered a rising star in the hemicycle and media-friendly personality.

The 44-year-old remains a non-attached MEP and is entitled to a post-tax salary of €7,146 per month and half of her €4,778 monthly allowance.

Kaili was one of the five individuals arrested and criminally charged by Belgian authorities, together with her domestic partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca and Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella.

The four men had already been granted their release from prison, making Kaili the last defendant to obtain a conditional liberation.

Her defence team, composed of Belgian lawyer Sven Mary and Greek lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, had strongly contested Kaili's continued imprisonment and pushed for her release.

"Eva Kaili comes out of prison with her head high and (with) dignity. She has not confessed to crimes she has not committed," Dimitrakopoulos said.

"She will fight for her innocence until the end."

European Parliament via AP
Eva Kaili, right, speaks during the European Book Prize award ceremony in Brussels.European Parliament via AP

In an exclusive interview with Euronews on Tuesday, Mary claimed investigators had failed to find any new evidence to support the case against Kaili and attacked the prosecutor's office for keeping her behind bars as a "trophy."

"Ms Kaili is lifted as a symbol to say: 'Even if you hold high office, you will remain in prison.' And this is made especially to say to the other lawmakers: 'Do not commit corruption because you will go to prison for a long time,'" Mary told Euronews.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office refused to comment on the lawyer's accusations.

It was not immediately clear if Kaili would spend her house arrest in the same residence as Francesco Giorgi, with whom she has a two-year-old daughter.

Giorgi used to work as a parliamentary assistant, first for Pier Antonio Panzeri, the presumed ringleader behind the corruption scheme, and later for Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian MEP who is fighting extradition from Italy to Belgium.

Panzeri signed in January a plea deal with the authorities under which he admits his criminal participation in bribery and commits to sharing "revealing" details about the cash-for-favours scheme.

This piece has been updated with new developments.

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