Francesco Giorgi, the partner of European Parliament former vice president Eva Kaili, has been freed from jail but will wear an electronic bracelet, according to a press release by the Belgian prosecution dated 23 February. The development however prompted a negative reaction from Kaili.
Kaili, a former newsreader booted from her post as parliamentary vice president after police raids last December, has become the public face of the Qatargate corruption case.
Francesco Giorgi is Eva Kaili’s partner, the father of their 2-year old girl, and one of the suspected key players in the scandal. Kaili remains in custody in the Haren women prison near Brussels.
As surprising as it may sound, Kaili’s reaction at the liberation of Giorgi wasn’t positive.
“It is obvious that Belgium’s criminal justice system rewards criminals who confess their guilt and smashes those who fight for their innocence, institutionally scorning the presumption of innocence, a pillar of European legal culture,” her Greek lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos commented.
“Eva Kaili will manage, she will not confess to crimes she has not committed, she will continue to fight for her acquittal,” he added.
The Greek lawyer also noted that it was a “paradox” that Kaili remains in prison, because it is considered that she will destroy evidence of the case, if she is released and on the other side, the “protagonists” are released.
When the scandal erupted, Giorgi insisted that his partner Kaili was innocent and was not aware of his illegal activities with Pier Antonio Panzeri, the alleged mastermind behind the scandal.
Giorgi began his career in the European Parliament as an assistant to Pier Antonio Panzeri, a socialist MEP from Italy, and moved in 2019 to the office of Andrea Cozzolino, another Italian socialist.
Panzeri, who is now also in detention, appears to be at the centre of the scandal. After his MEP term expired in 2019, he engaged in lobbying activities to the profit of countries such as Qatar and Morocco, behind the mask of fake NGOs such as ‘Fighting Impunity’, ‘No Peace Without Justice’, and a string of MEPs and politicians who took part in the activities organised by the NGOs.
The Belgian investigators have been investigating the actors involved and recently charged and detained Marc Tarabella, a Belgian socialist MEP. Tarabella claims his innocence.
Qatar and Morocco also deny any wrongdoing.
Since his arrest in December, Giorgi is believed to have adopted a collaborative attitude with the Belgian authorities, sharing revealing details on how the behind-the-scenes graft developed.
In Belgium, a “guilty plea” procedure enables the Public Prosecutor to negotiate a penalty in exchange for an admission of guilt. It is similar to the US plea bargain.
According to documents obtained by Le Soir and La Repubblica, Giorgi has confessed to being part of an ‘organisation’ used by Qatar and Morocco to influence European policy-making.
Giorgi has reportedly tried to exonerate Kaili by accusing his former boss, Andrea Cozzolino, and Marc Tarabella of accepting cash through Panzeri’s management.
Giorgi acted as translator for Panzeri, who does not speak English, during meetings with Qatari officials that were intercepted by the Belgian police, Le Soir reported.
Kaili’s lawyer says she feels “betrayed” by her partner because Giorgi’s supposed participation in the criminal scheme turned the Greek MEP, by extension, into an accomplice.
Flaw in procedure?
Greek press reported that a couple of days ago Giorgi and Panzeri shared the same cell for three days.
The question is raised how the Belgian authorities allowed this, considering that they have so far claimed that they don’t want contacts between people who have information about the Qatargate corruption scandal because they could even coordinate their narratives.
EURACTIV was informed last week that Giorgi started changing his approach toward Kaili’s involvement in the scandal after his 3-day interaction with Panzeri.
A group of MEPs recently wrote to Parliament President Roberta Metsola to raise concerns about the treatment of Kaili, who has reportedly been able to see her baby girl only twice since her detention on 9 December.