Demoted MEP Eva Kaili mounts legal challenge to quash Qatargate inquiry

European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili arrested amid Brussels corruption probe
European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili arrested amid Brussels corruption probe - INDEPENDENT PHOTO AGENCY SRL / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO/ALAMY PAY

The senior MEP at the heart of the EU’s Qatargate corruption scandal will argue Belgian secret agents breached the bloc’s rules in a bid to quash the charges against her.

Eva Kaili, who was stripped of her office as European Parliament vice-president after police arrested her at her Brussels apartment and seized €150,000 in cash, claims investigators breached her parliamentary immunity.

Legal documents state that her lawyers will insist any evidence gathered before her immunity was lifted should be “declared inadmissible” as no request was made to the EU Parliament to lift it.

Ms Kaili and a string of other suspects, including sitting and former MEPs, are alleged to be part of the cash-for-influence scandal, which centres on a criminal network operated by a Moroccan diplomat trying to sway a visa liberalisation vote in favour of Qatar.

Police officers found more than €1.5 million in cash believed to be ready for use as bribes ahead of the ballots in the EU Parliament.

The Greek MEP’s lawyers, Sven Mary and Christophe Marchand, have filed for a “legal check of procedure” with the federal prosecutor’s office in Belgium, the Politico Europe website has reported.

Criminal proceedings

They will argue “parliamentary immunity she enjoys has been breached and that the criminal proceedings against her should therefore be declared inadmissible”.

Before any legal proceedings could have started, Qatargate investigators should have applied to lift Ms Kaili’s immunity, which they didn’t, the documents say.

Instead, her parliamentary immunity was only stripped after she had been arrested, and bundles of cash stuffed inside bags were found at her apartment.

“If they rule that the evidence was collected illegitimately, it cannot be used in court,” Domenico Vincenzo Ferraro, a lawyer for Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, who has also been charged as part of the investigation.

The Italian’s lawyer was also approached by representatives of Belgian Marc Tarabella, the third sitting MEP charged, to rally behind Ms Kaili’s argument.

Innocent of any charges

The three MEPs have all argued they are innocent of any charges.

It is likely their defence lawyers will turn to the “fruit of the poisonous tree” argument - a legal metaphor to claim that evidence has been obtained illegally and lessens the chance of a fair trial.

However, the Belgium legal system could complicate their bid, according to Michaël Fernandez-Bertier, of legal firm Ethics & Compliance.

Under a precedent, “evidence that was irregularly collected does not systematically lead to the annulment of the entire investigation, part of the investigation or the irregular act: it depends on the seriousness of such irregularity”, he said.