Belgium frees all but one ‘Qatargate’ suspect
All but one of the suspects in the alleged European Parliament corruption case have been released from house arrest as the Belgian investigation into the “Qatargate” scandal enters a new phase.
The former deputy speaker of the EU parliament, Eva Kaili, will be released from house arrest and electronic surveillance, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.
Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the prosecution, said this meant “the case is far enough along that detention is no longer warranted” and there was no risk of flight, evidence tampering or collusion with other suspects.
Kaili, who was arrested in December, spent four months in a Belgian prison and was released under house arrest with an electronic tag on April 14. She spent her time in a Brussels prison cell, where she would see her two-year-old daughter twice a month. she, she has also been described as “torture” by her lawyer, who had filed a complaint about the “inhumane” circumstances she had gone through while she was in custody.
Kaili has maintained her innocence. She remains a suspect and as such may be questioned and may need permission to leave Belgium, Van Duyse said.
Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, Kaili’s lawyer, welcomed her release and said she planned to request a return to her role as vice president of the European Parliament. Parliament had stripped her of her functions after her arrest.
After a period of months that included placing surveillance cameras at the home of prime suspect Pier Antonio Panzeri, Belgian police carried out unprecedented raids on the homes and offices of EU lawmakers in December, arresting Kaili and his partner, Francesco Giorgi, a former Panzeri aide.
Belgian authorities seized €1.5 million in cash and charged the trio, as well as another suspect who has since been released, with money laundering and involvement in an organized criminal group, which allegedly took bribes from Morocco and Qatar to influence EU law. Both countries have denied wrongdoing.
But investigations into the unprecedented corruption case have apparently slowed down as all the suspects except Panzeri have now been released.
Panzeri, a former EU lawmaker, struck a deal with Belgian prosecutors and confessed to the crimes in exchange for a shorter sentence. Giorgi also partially pleaded guilty to him and was released in February, while Kaili remained in prison. Panzeri was released under electronic surveillance in April and remains under house arrest, Van Duyse said.
Marc Tarabella MEP, another suspect arrested in February, was released this month from house arrest. Tarabella returned to work in parliament this week, attending several committee meetings.