The Greek state broadcaster “ERT” has meanwhile dubbed the scandal surrounding the Greek Vice President of the European Parliament “Qatar Gate”. It is a far-reaching European political affair that continues to expand.
Greek leader Eva Kaili was arrested despite her parliamentary immunity, which she is the only person arrested so far in the scandal surrounding alleged Qatari corruption. This was only possible because Kaili was probably caught red-handed. Kaili can stay in custody for a maximum of one month. During that time, either their immunity must be lifted by Parliament, or a trial must begin.
The cash apparently found in Kaili’s house and in her father’s briefcase has not yet been counted and checked for authenticity of the notes. Kaili’s father, Alexandros Kailis, was arrested while trying to leave his hotel, the Sofitel near Kaili’s home in Brussels, with a bag full of cash, according to Belgian media.
Louis Colart, a Belgian investigative journalist for Le Soir newspaper, reported that the uncounted cash was “certainly several hundred thousand euros”. Greek media such as To Pontiki speculate whether it would be more favorable for Kaili to be tried in his home country. After all, according to the dig at the domestic judiciary, corrupt politicians in Greece would fall softly.
The state of Qatar itself has protested against the suspicion to the magazine “Politico” and categorically rejects the allegations. While the broadcaster ERT connects Kuwait as another Gulf state with the corruption scandal, the Belgian newspaper “L’ Echo” reports on another Greek politician who is said to be involved in the affair.
She refers to a vote in the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on December 1, 2022, where a decision was made on visa-free travel for citizens of Kuwait and Qatar. Behind this proposal was the EU Commissioner for Migration Issues and the Promotion of the European Way of Life, the Greek Margaritis Schinas. The latter also met with Qatari Labor Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri on November 20, the first day of the World Cup, writes L’Echo. The Italian newspaper “La Republica” takes a similar line, which now sees Schina’s statements, including tweets praising Qatar, in a different light.
But Kaili is still at the center of the scandal. She was arrested on Friday along with five other people. The Belgian judicial authorities state that four of the six remain in custody. According to media reports, Kailis and the Italian General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Luca Visentini, were released. According to the Greek Sunday newspaper Proto Thema, Kaili is suspected of forming a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. According to Proto Thema sources, the Belgian authorities are expanding their investigation into other suspects and have summoned Eva Kaili’s sister, Madalena Kaili, among others.
The Italian agency “Ansa” states that in addition to Kaili, former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri, Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi and Niccolò Figà-Talamanca remain in detention. Giorgi was Panzeri’s assistant during his time as a member of parliament and worked in the European Parliament. Figà-Talamanca is Secretary General of the human rights organization No Peace without Justice. The organization is committed to protecting and promoting human rights, democracy, the rule of law and international justice.
Kaili’s father is now apparently free, but his family is also threatened with hardship in their home country. The newspaper To Pontiki reported that four of Kaili’s properties, as well as bank accounts of all first-degree relatives, had to be searched due to a request from Interpol. This has already happened in Italy with regard to Panzeri’s wife and daughter.
Panzeri founded a human rights organization, Fight Impunity. Former EU commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and former EU foreign policy chief Federica Morgherini are on the organization’s honorary board of directors. Both resigned immediately after the first allegations against Panzeri emerged.
The scandal triggers a domestic political tremor in Greece. There are now wild rumors and the political parties are trying to take advantage of the scandal. Parliamentary elections are coming up. Kaili was discussed as a “transfer” from the social-democratic PASOK to the conservative Nea Dimokratia. A step that Alexandros Kailis has apparently already taken. His career, which initially began in the PASOK environment, was most recently promoted by politicians from New Democracy.
His daughter had long opposed her party leader Nikos Androulakis with numerous actions and statements. He threw them out of the party on Friday, which is much easier in Greece than in Germany. Androulakis describes Kaili as the “Trojan horse of New Democracy”, making a possible coalition between the Social Democrats and the Conservatives even more unlikely. On the other hand, the left-wing SYRIZA party exploits the mention of the names of Schinas and Avramopoulos. Both are attributed to the New Dimokratia.