Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP at the heart of a corruption scandal gripping the European Parliament, is taking the Belgian justice system to court alleging the country’s police and secret services violated her parliamentary immunity.
Kaili, who was arrested last December and charged with corruption, launched her case on Tuesday in a Brussels court. She is following in the footsteps of two other MEPs involved in the scandal, Belgium’s Marc Tarabella and Italy’s Andrea Cozzolino, who have launched similar lawsuits.
The three of them, as well as Kaili’s domestic partner and former parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi and three-term socialist Pier Antonio Panzeri, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of euros from Qatari and Moroccan officials in exchange for influencing the decision of the European Parliament.
Panzeri has confessed to taking part in a criminal organisation and shared details with prosecutors in exchange for leniency for him and his family. The others, as well as Qatar and Morocco, reject all accusations.
If the courts side with them and rule that their parliamentary immunities were violated the entire corruption case against them, known as Qatargate, could collapse.
“All parties involved, including Eva Kaili, have objected to the legality of the criminal proceedings to date,” Kaili’s Greek lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told reporters on Tuesday.
“The objections are based on two pillars. One is that Eva Kaili’s right to immunity from the Belgian secret services has been violated and that this entails the absolute nullity of the proceedings.”
“The second and most fundamental objection is that the investigator in the case, Michel Claise, had a basic stumbling block to not being an investigator,” he added, citing the ties Claise’s son has to another MEP involved in the scandal.
“This affects the impartiality of the investigator and he should have resigned. If this had happened on Greek territory he would have been an accused,” he said.
Kaili, who spent four months in jail followed by one month of house arrest under electronic surveillance, was kicked out of the Socialists & Democrats groups and stripped of her Vice-President position at the European Parliament but she returned to plenary in Strasbourg as an unaffiliated MEP in July.
On Tuesday, she attended a hearing of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) discussing the request of the European Prosecutor (EPPO) to lift her immunity in relation to another case. She is accused of committing fraud in relation to the management of her parliamentary allowance, in particular for the compensation of assistants.
The hearing was confidential and kept behind closed doors.
Kaili’s lawyer for EU affairs, Spiros Pappas, said this case “does not concern the case of Kaili only, it is a case concerning the functioning of European democracy.”
“I can say, and it may sound a little bit too much that at this moment, the European democracy, the European Union, is under scrutiny under surveillance, without exaggeration. So I think that the case in general is a good case, not the case that was discussed today exclusively, but I think that both cases are interconnected,” he also said.
The decision of the Legal Affairs Committee is expected by November. However, the one in Belgian Justice is expected to be delayed, even to 2024.