The European Parliament on Tuesday paved the way for prosecutors to investigate Greek MEP Eva Kaili’s involvement in an alleged €150,000 fraud stretching back to 2015, according to Politico.
In a vote taken by a show of hands among MEPs, the Parliament agreed unanimously to a request by a top EU financial crime-fighting body to lift the immunity of the former vice president, who is also at the center of a separate corruption scandal dubbed Qatargate.
Kaili herself was not present for the vote, but Marc Tarabella, a Belgian MEP who is also a suspect in the Qatargate scandal, raised his hand in favor of the immunity-lifting proposal. Kaili and Tarabella have both maintained their innocence in the Qatargate probe.
As Politico first reported last year, Kaili is accused of misusing her official budget by orchestrating fake jobs and kickback schemes with several former assistants.
According to the report put to the vote Tuesday, Kaili is accused of fraudulently spending between €120,000 and €150,000 of public money; if found guilty, she could face between five and 15 years in prison under Greek law.
Kaili’s lawyer, Spyros Pappas, wrote to Politico before the vote that he would take further legal action should the Parliament waive his client’s immunity with “a new application against a possible decision of the EP to adhere to the request of EPPO [the European Public Prosecutor’s Office].”
Pappas added that the notion Kaili could serve prison time based on an amount of €120,000 is “at this stage rather premature and unsubstantiated.”
EPPO wants to investigate allegations that one of Kaili’s assistants did not really work for her between 2015 and 2019; that a total of four assistants submitted fake expenses claims; and that Kaili took kickbacks from the salary of one of the assistants, allegedly at Kaili’s request.
Kaili lost an attempt to blow up the probe last month, having taken her case to the General Court of the European Union.
That General Court ruling was seen as a “very important” milestone by EPPO head Laura Codruța Kövesi, as it allowed her team to properly investigate the MEP, who was protected by an immunity privilege until the Parliament agreed to lift it.
“In a state of law, immunity is not meant to shield politicians or civil servants from criminal investigations,” Kövesi told Politico last month. “It’s very important when there is a request for lifting the immunity to give the possibility to prosecutors, investigative judges and police officers to continue their investigative work.”
Kaili, like other Qatargate suspects, remains an MEP with full voting rights despite being charged with participating in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.
The decision was first unanimously approved by the Parliament’s committee in charge of legal affairs, where Kaili made her case behind closed doors in September.
The Parliament on Tuesday also waived the immunities of two other independent Greek lawmakers. MEP Georgios Kyrtsos is accused of owing money to the Greek state, while MEP Ioannis Lagos — who is already behind bars — is accused of inciting hatred based on an online statement in 2022.