Cops release more images of cash used in EU corruption scandal

Case closed? Police reveal suitcase stuffed with €600,000 which Qatar bribery scandal MEP’s father was caught carrying – as judges decide today if suspects will be detained

  • Eva Kaili, partner Francesco Giorgi, ex-MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and lobbyist Niccolò Figa-Talamanca set to appear before a judge for first time today
  • Four are accused of taking at least £1.3million from Qatari officials as bribes
  • Belgian police have released more images of the money they seized, including notes stuffed into a suitcase, lock boxes and a paper bag 

Police have released more images of cash which they say was used to bribe four EU officials as the group are set to appear for the first time in court today. 

EU parliament vice-president Eva Kaili, 44, her partner Francesco Giorgi, 35, ex-MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and lobbyist Niccolò Figa-Talamanca are all set to appear for a bail hearing charged with corruption, money laundering and organised crime. 

They were arrested late last week by investigators who also seized a suitcase full of cash that was being carried out of a Brussels Sofitel by Kaili’s father, along with boxes and bags stuffed full of notes found inside her flat and Panzeri’s home.

Pictures released Wednesday showed the suitcase, boxes and bags, and comes after another image released late Tuesday showed stacks of notes. In total, investigators say £1.3million was seized. 

Belgian police have released a picture of euro notes worth £500,000 they discovered stuffed inside a suitcase in anti-corruption raids at the weekend

Police also photographed lock-boxes filled with stacks of notes they say were seized from the homes of two Brussels political figures, and a hotel

Euro notes were also found stuffed inside a paper bag as police said they seized a total of £.13million which they say was paid as bribes

Six people were arrested in the raids and four of them charged, with Eva Kaili – a European parliament vice president – said to be among them

Belgian cops say the group were given the money by ‘Gulf State’ officials – widely thought to be Qatari – as part of a scheme to buy influence in the EU parliament. 

Kaili has denied any involvement in bribery, while Qatar has denied that it is the Gulf State involved in the scheme.

Kaili’s father is reported to have been carrying the briefcase with £650,000 in notes, before being stopped by investigators coming out of a Sofitel in the Belgian capital. 

It was that ‘red handed’ moment which allowed cops to waive Ms Kaili’s usual right to diplomatic immunity and search her home where they reportedly found ‘valuables’ and more ‘bags of banknotes’, Belgian newspaper Le Soir said. 

The £500,000 was said to have been found inside the home of Pier Antonio Panzeri, another of the four arrested and charged at the weekend.

He is an Italian ex-MEP who now runs a think-tank championing human rights which was associated with a number of high-ranking EU officials. 

The fourth arrest is reported to be Niccolò Figa-Talamanca, who runs a lobbying group called No Peace Without Justice. 

Ms Kaili, speaking through her lawyer, has denied guilt and said she ‘has nothing to do with bribery from Qatar.’

Qatar – which has not been publicly named as the state involved but has been accused in Belgian media – has denied involvement.

‘The State of Qatar categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct,’ the Qatari mission to the EU said.

All four are due in front of court tomorrow for a bail hearing.

Two more people were arrested and questioned but not charged, thought to be Mr Panzeri’s wife and daughter.

Extracts of their arrest warrants say they took part in Panzeri’s activities and in the transport of gifts, and thatPanzeri and his wife had the use of a credit card of an unidentified person they called the ‘geant’, or giant. 

Panzeri, who is detained in Belgium, could not be reached for comment by Reuters. Fight Impunity did immediately respond to a request asking for comment or for contact details for his lawyer.

A lawyer acting for the family in Italy said Panzeri’s wife and daughter denied any involvement at a hearing in Italy on Saturday but he declined to comment on the merits of the case because he had not received the full European arrest warrant. 

An Italian court is expected to decide next week whether his wife and daughter will be handed over to Belgium.

The group is accused of taking the money and other gifts in return for trying to tip debates in the European parliament in Qatar’s favour.

Belgian police have released an image of £1.3million in cash they say was seized at the weekend in raids on two homes and a hotel room in Brussels

Kaili is accused of taking money from Qatar in return for trying to influence debates in the European parliament in their favour (pictured meeting the Qatari labour minister in October)

Also reported to be under arrest is Francesco Giorgi (right), Ms Kaili’s partner. The pair have been together since 2020 and have an 18-month-old daughter

In addition to the vast sum of money, investigators also seized laptops and mobile phones and ordered the IT resources of 10 parliamentary staff were frozen to prevent data disappearing. Searches have also been carried out in Italy.

In arrest warrants issued in Italy, there are also allegations of payments from Morocco.

The Moroccan government did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Shortly before the World Cup, Kaili travelled alone to Qatar – after a fuller EU delegation had been told not to come – where she praised their preparations for the tournament.

During a debate on November 24 on a motion to condemn Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, she stood up to praise their progress since being awarded the footballing showpiece event.

And, just 10 days ago, she showed up to vote in favour of weakening visa rules for high-ranking Qataris despite not being a member on the relevant committee.

The backlash has been swift. Over the weekend, Kaili was stripped of her responsibilities as vice president, expelled from her party both in Greece and Brussels, and saw Greek prosecutors freeze her assets.

Today, she was sacked as vice president in a 625 to 1 ballot as fellow politicians raced to distance themselves from her.

Ms Kaili, who only became an EU vice president in January having been involved in politics since age 14, has denied being involved in bribery

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