Belgium has released all but one of the ‘Qatargate’ suspects
All but one suspect in the European Parliament’s alleged corruption case has been released from house arrest as Belgium’s investigation into the “Qatargate” scandal enters a new phase.
The former vice-president of the EU Parliament, Eva Kaili, will be freed from house arrest and electronic surveillance, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office announced on Thursday.
Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said this means that “the case has progressed far enough that detention is no longer warranted” and there is no risk of escape, tampering with evidence or collusion with other suspects.
Kaili, who was arrested last December, spent four months in a Belgian prison and was released on April 14 under house arrest with an electronic tag. He spent time in a prison cell in Brussels, where he saw his two-year-old daughter twice a month. it was also described as “torture” by his lawyer, who filed a complaint about the “inhumane” conditions he experienced during his detention.
Kaili maintained her innocence. He 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 the release and said he planned to apply to be reinstated as vice-president of the European Parliament. After his arrest, the parliament deprived him of his functions.
After months of work to install surveillance cameras at the home of the main suspect, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Belgian police in December carried out an unprecedented raid on the homes and offices of EU lawmakers, arresting Kaili and her partner Francesco Giorgi. Panzeri’s former assistant.
Belgian authorities seized 1.5 million euros in cash and charged the trio and another suspect, who has since been released, with money laundering and involvement in an organized crime group that allegedly took bribes from Morocco and Qatar to influence EU legislation. The two countries denied any wrongdoing.
However, the investigation into the unprecedented corruption case has apparently slowed down as all suspects except Panzeri have been released.
Panzeri, a former EU lawmaker himself, struck a plea deal with Belgian prosecutors and admitted to the crimes in exchange for a shorter sentence. Giorgi also partially admitted his guilt and was released in February, while Kaili remained in prison. Panzeri was released on electronic monitoring in April and remains under house arrest, Van Duyse said.
MEP Marc Tarabella, another suspect arrested in February, was released from house arrest this month. Tarabella returned to parliament this week and attended several committee meetings.