Eva Kaili, the Greek MEP at the center of the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, will not confess to get out of jail, her lawyer said, insisting her innocence and accusing Belgian authorities of keeping her behind bars as a “trophy” .”
“The time has come for Ms Kaili to be released and for her presumption of innocence to be respected,” Sven Mary told Euronews in an exclusive interview.
“There is no longer any reason to keep Ms. Kaili in prison,” he said.
Kaili has been in remand in Haren prison on the outskirts of Brussels since his arrest on 9 December. She was reportedly caught in the act and her parliamentary immunity was immediately waived.
The 44-year-old MP was then charged with participation in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.
His arrest sent shockwaves throughout Brussels and brought to light a sprawling investigation in a cash-for-favors scheme that involved “large sums of money” allegedly paid by Qatar and Morocco to influence European decision-making.
Both countries deny any wrongdoing.
Kaili was subsequently removed from her position as Vice-President of the European Parliament and her party membership was suspended.
“Cases like Ms. Kaili’s are regarded as a trophy or a symbol and are shown as the World Cup,” her lawyer said.
“Ms. Kaili is held up as a symbol to say, ‘Even if you hold high office, you will remain in prison.’ And this is done above all to say to the other legislators: ‘Do not commit corruption because you will go to prison for a long time'”.
As part of the ongoing investigation, five people were arrested and still charged by the Belgian authorities: Eva Kaili, her partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the director of the NGO Niccolò Figà-Talamanca and the Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella.
All of them have been or will be released from prison, except Kaili.
“Today I can no longer understand the reason for preventive detention, especially when two people are released: Panzeri, the head of the criminal organization, and his right-hand man, Francesco Giorgi. These two people have confessed to having committed crimes of corruption” . Maria said.
“This pre-trial detention is a means of pressure to extract confessions. And I say it clearly: there will be no confession from Ms. Kaili. There will be none since there is no wrongdoing on her part that has been committed.”
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the lawyer’s allegations.
“We are about to clarify our views in court,” a spokesman said.
In her interview with Euronews on Tuesday in her office in Brussels, Mary repeatedly defended her client’s innocence and said the investigation had failed to produce new evidence to justify Kaili’s continued detention.
According to the lawyer, Kaili has spent the last two weeks answering “all the questions” posed by the investigators in sessions lasting a total of 15 hours.
“They want to hear certain answers, but those are not the answers Ms Kaili is giving. And when Ms Kaili doesn’t give the answers they want to hear, well, that’s not good,” Mary said, accusing Belgian authorities of suffering from “tunnel vision”.
Mary was especially critical of PierAntonio Panzerithe alleged ringleader of the corruption regime who struck a plea deal with the prosecutor in which he admits criminal participation in the corruption and agrees to share “revealing” details.
“I have my big doubts whether Mr. Panzeri is really telling the truth. He is telling his truth. That’s a big difference,” he said.
Kaili’s detention, Mary said, is based on only two elements: Panzeri’s confession and the phone call Kaili made to her father, Alexandros Kailis, on December 9, when she allegedly asked him to remove the bags of money he had just discovered in his apartment.
The father was caught at the Sofitel hotel with a suitcase full of cash but was later released without charge.
Since her arrest, Eva Kaili has been subjected to several hearings before the Brussels court, but her release has never been granted, despite the pleas of her defense team.
Kaili will face a new hearing on Thursday, in which Mary plans to ask for her release on terms, though not necessarily electronic surveillance.
Francesco Giorgi, Kaili’s partner with whom he has a two-year-old daughter, was released in late February with an electronic bracelet, a decision Mary attributed to Giorgi’s criminal admissions.
Giorgi worked as a parliamentary assistant, first for Panzeri and then for Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian MEP also suspected of being part of the money-for-favors regime and who is now fighting for Italy’s extradition to Belgium.
“Will she live under the same roof as Francesco Giorgi? He’s her partner, he’s the father of her child and they both own the house. So I assume they’ll be living in the same house,” Mary said, speaking of Kaili’s hypothetical release.
“He never accused her of anything, unlike Mr. Panzeri”.
When asked what Kaili thinks of Giorgi after all the twists and turns of the scandal, Mary cited a Belgian saying: “You never wash your dirty laundry in public.”