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Beyond Qatargate, Eva Kaili is also being investigated for an EU kickback scheme.

Putting aside Qatargate, Eva Kaili is suffering greatly for unrelated reasons.

Beyond Qatargate, Eva Kaili is also being investigated for an EU kickback scheme

According to documents, the Greek EU lawmaker is under criminal investigation for allegedly making fraudulent payments to four former assistants in the European Parliament between 2014 and 2020.


According to a letter from the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) to Parliament President Roberta Metsola, the investigation is looking into Kaili for three possible fraudulent activities: whether she misled Parliament about her assistants' whereabouts and work activities; whether she took a cut of their reimbursements for "fake" work trips she organized; and whether she also took kickbacks from part of their salaries.


Maria Spyraki, a different Greek EU lawmaker, has also been part of the investigation. Investigators assert that she misled the organization on the activities of her assistants and instructed them to submit receipts for fictitious business travel. The documents, however, make no claims that Spyraki accepted kickbacks from salaries or false reimbursements.

According to a person acquainted with the investigation, Kaili owes the European Parliament "about €100,000" in total.


The information provides the first substantial window into the investigation since it was made public in December, just days after Kaili was arrested on suspicion of being a part of the even bigger scandal known as Qatargate, which involved an alleged bribery ring that prosecutors claim involved Qatar and Morocco paying off members of the European Parliament.


Additionally, with no new arrests since February and all Qatargate defendants already released from custody, focus is now shifting to the fraud investigation. Tuesday will mark the first time that members of the Parliament's legal affairs committee will meet in secret session to discuss Kaili's case.


Kaili, who was placed under house arrest earlier this month, is presently contesting the prosecutor's demand to revoke her immunity, a benefit granted to EU lawmakers. However, the EU prosecutor's office, which looks into criminal fraud connected to EU money, claims its investigation is legitimate.


In the letter, which was delivered to Parliament in December and asked that both Kaili and Spyraki's immunity be revoked, European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi stated, "The current investigation pertains to strong suspicions of repeated fraud and/or other serious irregularities."


For this story, EPPO declined to comment on the situation. Through a lawyer, Kaili claimed that she had pledged to make good on any debts and to follow any recommendations. According to Spyraki, Kaili is unrelated to her case, and she has never been accused of accepting kickbacks.


"I have no dispute on the budget based on my responsibility as supervisor," she declared. "I have already paid the relevant amount and I have already asked the services to reassess my case financially."


On December 15, only a few days after Kaili had been detained in connection with Qatargate in Brussels, the European Prosecutor made the fraud investigation public.


The notification listed both Spyraki, a former journalist and former spokeswoman for the center-right Greek party New Democracy, which is linked with the sizable European People's Party group in Brussels, and Kaili, a member of the center-left Socialists and Democrats grouping.


The news was made on the same day that Kövesi asked Metsola to lift her immunity. The documents also identified two former Spyraki assistants and four former Kaili employees as probable participants in the various scams.


While acknowledging that the investigation was unrelated to the Qatargate scandal, which also involved Kaili's life partner Francesco Giorgi and numerous other current and former EU parliamentarians, officials publicly provided few details about the investigation.


The specifics are now starting to become clear.


In the letter, it is said that the EPPO investigation is looking into Kaili and Spyraki for violations involving the "physical presence at the place of employment" of their assistants and "related European Parliament decisions on working time."


In the same letter, it is said that there are more questions regarding "fake missions, submission of false supporting documents and undue reimbursement claims for missions expenses by the APAs on the request of Ms Kaili and Ms Spyraki." The term "accredited parliamentary assistant" is abbreviated as "APA."


Particularly Kaili is being looked into for obtaining "payback" from the salaries and fabricated expenses of her assistants.


The investigation by the public prosecutor comes after one by OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud body, which was finished on November 23 of last year. Then, according to a statement from OLAF in December, EPPO received the case.


In addition to its statement from four months ago, OLAF declined to comment more and stated it would leave any further action to the public prosecutor's office.


The controversy over whether to lift Kaili's immunity is also affecting the EPPO case.


MEPs have a special privilege known as immunity that shields them from being arbitrarily prosecuted for what they say or do while serving as EU legislators. Following a recommendation from the legal affairs committee and a vote by all MEPs, it may be waived.


After it has already begun for Spyraki, Parliament is now beginning the procedure for Kaili. At the Tuesday meeting of the legal affairs committee, MEPs will talk about Kaili's immunity.


Kaili's attorney, Spyros Pappas, stated that normally, after OLAF completes its investigation — as it did with Kaili — such fraud cases are concluded with the legislator paying back whatever the office claims is owed. Additionally, he questioned how authorities could defend removing immunity for conduct that date back to 2014.


"One cannot but question both the legality and the opportunity of the initiative taken by EPPO," he remarked. "The answer can only be given by the General Court of Justice of the EU."

By fLEXI tEAM




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