Eva Kaili admitted that she asked her father to hide money

Eva Kaili

Under fire Greek MEP Eva Kaili admitted that she had asked her father to hide part of the money that was in her home when questioned by Belgian police, according to "Knack" magazine and "Soir" newspaper.

The press reports note that her partner, Francesco Giorgi, had admitted that he was part of an organisation used by both Morocco and Qatar to intervene in European affairs, and that according to documents in the possession of both "Soir" and the newspaper "Repubblica", Kaili has "partially confessed", admitting that she asked her father to hide money that was in her apartment.

Kaili's father was arrested on December 9, on the first day of an anti-corruption operation by Belgian authorities, hiding in the Brussels Sofitel with a suitcase full of cash and, according to the arrest warrant for the Greek MEP issued on the same day, she had admitted that she had instructed her father to hide the money.

According to "Knack", Kaili said that she had known about her husband's activities with former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri in the past and that the suitcases filled with cash had been in her apartment.

It said the former presenter "panicked" when police stopped her partner Francesco Giorgi as he was leaving their apartment on December 9, contacting her father and also attempting to warn Panzeri and two unnamed MEPs who are also under investigation.

It adds that Kaili's Belgian lawyer e-mailed the magazine on Monday to express "outrage" that the magazine had access to these documents and that the rules were not being respected, while claiming that its report of "partial confessions" was a "biased interpretation".

Kaili, a 44-year-old socialist MEP, is accused of accepting large sums of money to peddle influence for Qatar at the European Parliament.

Police swoops on MEPs are a rare thing. They are typically shielded from the eyes of the law because of parliamentary immunity, a right conferred upon MEPs which prevents them from being sued, arrested or investigated.

Yet, under EU rules, Kaili could not claim this protection as she was caught red-handed, with reports suggesting police found her with large "bags of cash".

Like in most parliaments around the world, every MEP is given parliamentary immunity, and there are many reasons why it is necessary.

Parliamentary immunity means MEPs can carry out their jobs, express opinions and vote freely, without fear of arbitrary arrest or political persecution, explained European Parliament spokeswoman Yasmina Yakimova.

"It's about guaranteeing that parliament can function," she added. "It's not something that allows them to break the law more easily."

For example, immunity can protect European lawmakers from being sued for something they say in parliament, which could restrict their freedom of speech or cow them into silence on certain political issues.

Investigators are still establishing the facts around Kaili's alleged corruption.

"So far, I have no indication that [parliamentary immunity was involved]," said Freund. "I mean, she might have thought she was untouchable."

But the Green MEP underlined that immunity had not hampered the investigation or prevented her arrest, adding that he was "not aware of any case where parliamentary immunity had hindered [a] prosecution."

Others pointed to deeper issues within the European parliament that help fuel dodgy dealings.

"What allows MEPs to feel that they can engage in potentially dubious or criminal behaviour is not so much immunity, but the culture of impunity that exists in the European Parliament," said Nick Aiossa, Deputy Director of the Transparency Initiative.

He pointed to "extremely low or non-existent" anti-corruption rules and regimes in Brussels, alongside a "self-policing system for ethical violations".

In their code of conduct, MEPs must follow principles of integrity, honesty, accountability and others, while acting solely in the public interest.

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