A Belgian court has denied the request of Greek MEP Eva Kaili — one of the central figures involved in the Qatargate corruption scandal — to be released from pre-trial detention.
Kaili had previously asked to be released from prison pending the start of her trial, with her lawyers arguing that she does "not pose a flight risk and is not in a position to destroy evidence" and moreover that she "is actively participating in the investigation".
On Thursday, however, the Belgian authorities informed the 44-year-old that she will remain in jail for at least another month, despite Kaili's willingness to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to track her movements upon her release. Kaili's lawyers have reportedly told AFP that they will not appeal the decision.
Bags of money
Kaili was arrested on 9 December in connection with a scandal that has profoundly shaken European politics over the last couple of weeks. During a search of the Greek MEP's Brussels apartment, federal investigators discovered €150,000 in cash, while a further €600,000 was found in a suitcase carried by Kaili's father as he was leaving the Sofitel hotel in downtown Brussels. The money is believed to have been provided by the Qatari Government in exchange for Kaili's support for pro-Qatari policies.
Kaili's partner, 35-year-old parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, is also currently under investigation for alleged corruption. Giorgi has since confessed to his own involvement in the scandal, as well as that of several other European officials including former MEP Antonio Panzeri, as well as current MEPs Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella.
However, Giorgi has told federal investigators that his partner, with whom he has a young child, is not guilty of any wrongdoing. Kaili has similarly denied any active involvement in the scandal, although she has confessed to knowing about her partner's and fellow MEPs' complicity.
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"I will do everything possible so that my partner is free and can take care of our 22-month-old daughter," Giorgi is reported to have told federal investigators last week.
On Thursday, Greek authorities seized a 7,000-square-metre plot of land on the Greek island of Paros belonging to Kaili and Giorgi and froze a joint bank account used by the couple to purchase the property.