It is November 21st when Eva Kaili gives her last major speech in the European Parliament. In it, the Greek vice-president of the parliament finds words of praise for the great progress that the World Cup host country Qatar has allegedly made in terms of labor rights – and at the same time defends her own trip to the desert state, which has been heavily criticized for the human rights situation and its handling of guest workers. How cynical it is, she criticizes, to immediately suspect anyone who is in contact with Qatar of corruption.

Less than three weeks later – the tournament is still going on – Kaili herself is under serious suspicion of corruption.

On Friday, the 44-year-old MP was arrested in the course of several house searches for Qatar’s possible influence on politicians in Brussels. “Bags full of cash” were found in her apartment, which is believed to have come from Qatar, and she was caught “in flagranti”, according to the Belgian media. In addition to Kaili, five other parliamentary workers have now been arrested, including her Italian partner Francesco Giorgi, with whom she has a two-year-old daughter. They are now accused of “membership in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption”.

The scandal shakes the credibility of the European Parliament – with a woman at its heart who was herself considered a rising star in Greek and European politics.

In Greece, everyone knows her name. At just 20 years old, Eva Kaili is elected councilor in her hometown of Thessaloniki. After graduating in architecture, she studied international and European relations – including at the elite Harvard University – and later went to a journalism school. By 2004 at the latest, Kaili was an integral part of the limelight as a TV news presenter for “Mega Channel”, a large private broadcaster.

Three years later, she switched to politics and, at the age of 29, entered the Greek parliament as the youngest member of the socialist Pasok party. Even then, she made a name for herself with interviews about her crisis-ridden homeland across national borders. It’s all prejudice that people born in Greece are tax evaders and lazy, she defends her compatriots against the image in the rest of Europe.

In 2014 he moved to the European Parliament. There, the Greek draws attention to herself with her skills – “Politico” put her on a list of MEPs with the greatest influence in 2018 – but also with her cross-shots against her own party line. When the government in Athens settled the long-standing name dispute with North Macedonia, it spoke of “irreparable damage to history, Macedonia and the Greeks”. In 2019, she criticized aid payments by the left-wing governing party Syriza to deal with the consequences of the long-standing economic crisis, saying that social benefits were something “for idlers”.

In January 2022, Kaili reached the peak of her political career when she was elected one of 14 Vice Presidents of the European Parliament. At the same time, it may have been their final destination.

The ongoing corruption investigations are about the suspicion that Qatar has tried to influence decisions of the European Parliament with considerable sums of money and gifts. According to the public prosecutor’s office in Brussels, a total of 600,000 euros in cash and several mobile phones and laptops were confiscated during the searches. The beneficiaries are personalities with a “politically and/or strategically important position” in the EU Parliament – someone like Eva Kaili, who, in addition to her function as Parliamentary Deputy, is also a deputy member of the delegation for the Arabian Peninsula.

Specifically, there is currently a debate at EU level about easing the visa rules for Qatari citizens. Kaili recently sought a lot of contact with him on the matter, says the responsible Green MP Erik Marquardt of the DPA news agency. It was important to her that the decision was made quickly and that not so many conditions were placed on Qatar.

Kaili herself is not a member of the responsible interior committee – but voted on December 1 without consulting her parliamentary group on the subject. Now the position of the committee on visa liberalization is to be revised again.

Shortly after her arrest things happened in rapid succession: the Pasok party immediately distanced itself and announced that Kaili was “excluded from the party”. Party leader Nikos Androulakis later explained that the MP was behaving “like a Trojan horse” for the conservative New Democrats currently in power in Athens. He informed her “that she will no longer stand as a candidate for our party in the next European elections”.

In the European Parliament, all her powers are withdrawn from her by Parliament President Roberta Metsola. “Our Parliament is firmly against corruption,” Metsola tweeted. Previously, the Socialist Group had already suspended its membership. Many politicians are also shocked and angry about the scandal, which does not put Parliament in a good light (read an overview of the reactions here).

On Monday, the news follows that the Greek authorities have frozen all of Kaili’s assets as part of the investigation: “bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, companies and all other assets,” as the Greek anti-money laundering authority announced. In the afternoon, Parliament Speaker Metsola also invited the leaders of the parliamentary groups to an informal meeting at which “Kaili’s removal and further steps” are to be discussed.

For the former political shooting star, it should only be the beginning of the end.

Sources: “NY Times”, “BBC”, “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “ntv”, with DPA and AFP material