Michael Claise stepped down from his role on Monday following the accusations.
The Belgian judge who was leading the European Parliament corruption scandal investigation has been accused of bias by one a lawyer of an accused MEP.
Maxim Töller, who represents Belgian lawmaker Marc Tarabella – who is embroiled in the case – has told Euronews that Michel Claise was not an impartial investigator, after stepping down from his position this week.
Since the probe came to light in mid-December, the Belgian authorities have arrested and charged six individuals with participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption.
These are Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her domestic partner Francesco Giorgi, his former employer the ex-MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and current boss MEP Andrea Cozzolino, NGO boss Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, and Tarabella.
Belgian MEP Maria Arena also gained prominence after the office of her assistant was sealed by Belgian police and has had to resign from her position as chair of the parliament’s subcommittee on human rights after it was revealed she had failed to declare paid-for trips to Qatar. She has always denied wrong-doing and was never charged.
But Tarabella’s lawyer said in a n interview that “the son of Mr. Claise, the examining magistrate in charge of this case, was associated with the son of another person named in the case.
“That is, Maria Arena’s son, a partner in a company. We also discovered that these companies had the same accountant, who was searched because he was the accountant of other companies linked to Mr. Panzeri.
“So, all these elements, put together, suggest that you can’t be truly impartial when you’re a judge investigating friends or relatives of your own son.”
According to the official announcement issued by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, Claise decided to withdraw from the case “despite the absence of any real evidence to cast doubt on the probity of any of the parties involved, and the substantial work he and his investigators have accomplished in this case”.
Euronews has contacted Claise’s office in light of the allegations but with no response.
According to Töller, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
“Questions about validity arise now,” he told Euronews. “We’re going to have to reread the file and see if there are things that weren’t done consciously or unconsciously.”
Kaili’s lawyers also criticised the credibility of the prosecutor and his investigation, saying in a statement that “from the very beginning of the present case it was obvious that MEP Maria Arena was at the centre of the investigations carried out by the competent authorities.”
“On the contrary, the same authorities reported that there was no indication of involvement in the organisation for MEP Eva Kaili. That is, according to the investigating authorities, Maria Arena was identified as one of the possibly involved members of the European Parliament in the corruption scandal. It made us wonder that Maria Arena was never questioned by the Investigating Judge of the case, Michel Claise.
“With painful surprise we were informed that the son of the Investigating Judge and the son of Maria Arena are involved in a medical cannabis company! This information, which was not denied, raises enormous and obvious questions about the impartiality of all investigative actions, which have been carried out to date and have resulted in the pre-trial detention of Eva Kaili and the targeting of the investigations mainly on her, while the procedures for substantial investigation in time for Maria Arena were not initiated, despite the fact that the investigation of the authorities related her to Panzeri.
“The Investigating Judge Michel Claise had the legal obligation to inform the competent bodies of justice of the joint activities of his son with the son of Maria Arena and subsequently to refrain from handling the present case, because there are obvious grounds justifying exemption.
“It should be investigated by the Federal Prosecutor, if there are deliberate omissions in the investigation regarding the possible involvement of others in the pending case. Justice must preserve its prestige and credibility.”
Kaili has already appealed to the European Parliament, saying her parliamentary immunity was violated.
The Greek MEP’s lawyer alleges that the Belgian secret services surveilled her while she was investigating allegations of the use of Pegasus spyware by some EU governments.
Source: Euro News