By Christoph B. Schiltz For Welt – Ex-EU Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili remains in custody. Her partner has confessed to receiving corruption money from Qatar and Morocco. Her father has been caught with 750,000 euros. What’s next? The numbers of the freshly printed banknotes can reveal where they come from.
In important confession is already available. After a week of investigations against the former Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, her partner has admitted to accepting bribes. Francesco Giorgi, an aide to an Italian MP, has told police that corruption money has flowed from Morocco and Qatar to influence European politics, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
Kaili herself continues to deny having accepted money – although investigators found large amounts of cash and luxury goods in her apartment, where she lives with Giorgi.
Probably the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the EU involves millions. In addition to the 44-year-old Greek socialist Kaili, her now confessed partner Giorgi, who used to work as a sailing instructor and, according to unofficial surveys among female politicians and parliamentary staff, was named the “most beautiful man” in the Chamber of Deputies, is accused.
Other accused are Belgian Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Luca Visentini and former Socialist MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri from Italy, who in 2019 founded a non-governmental organisation called “Fight against Impunity” to uphold human rights. It allegedly served as a money-laundering facility, on the board of the organization sat the former EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini and France’s former Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Both resigned immediately after the allegations became known.
According to intercepted telephone calls, the former trade union official Panzeri went on a tropical holiday with his family last year for 100,000 euros and had a credit card provided to him by an unknown person called “the giant” (“il gigante”). Panzeri, according to Giorgi’s confession, was the head of the network.
The investigators accuse Kaili, the now ousted vice-president of the parliament, to have intervened for payment in favor of the autocratic states of Qatar and Morocco. In a parliamentary speech, Kaili spoke positively about the reforms in Qatar and apparently committed himself internally to visa facilitation for citizens of the emirate.
It is still difficult to predict how far the network of corruption will reach. “I almost fear that we are not yet at the end of the investigation,” says Daniel Freund, corruption expert of the Greens in the European Parliament. An “unbelievable incident,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens). In Brussels, the affair is called “Katargate”. “The European Parliament is under attack, European democracy is under attack,” said Christian Democrat EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
The Belgian authorities have been investigating the suspects since July. On Friday afternoon last week, they struck. At the time, Kaili’s father was leaving a hotel in Brussels’ European quarter and dragging a trolley suitcase behind him. He had apparently been warned of an imminent access. In the suitcase, the police found 750,000 euros in freshly printed banknotes, packaged mainly in 50 and 20 euro notes.
Because danger was imminent, the investigators immediately drove with a search warrant to the nearby apartment Kailis. They found luxury handbags, mobile phones and another 150,000 euros. A total of almost 20 apartments and offices have been searched so far, and around 1.5 million euros have been secured.
EU CORRUPTION SCANDAL
Four suspects are currently in custody, including Kaili, her partner Giorgi and Panzeri. Kaili, who described Qatar as a “pioneer in workers’ rights” during a parliamentary speech in November, said in an interrogation that the cash in her apartment came from a third person, according to media reports. She didn’t know anything about it, only her partner.
What happens next? All agreements between the European Union and Morocco and Qatar in recent years are likely to be reviewed. Parliament is determined to step up the fight against corruption with new rules. The Belgian investigators could soon find out who they came from based on the numbers on the freshly printed banknotes.