She was the EU’s glamour-girl: An ex-TV presenter whose love of politics saw her rise to become a vice-president of the European Parliament at the age of just 44.
Eva Kaili has arresting good looks, an Italian partner, a jet-set lifestyle, and a baby daughter. She rubbed shoulders with the likes of Richard Branson, and was beginning to wield power and influence. In short, she had the world at her feet.
But now, she stands to lose everything. Arrested and charged with taking bribes on behalf of Qatar after bags of money were allegedly found inside her apartment, in what is rapidly becoming one of Brussels’ biggest-ever corruption scandals.
So just who is Ms Kaili? How did she rise to the top of the pile in Brussels? And what is the scandal that could bring her crashing back to earth?
Eva Kaili is a native of Thessaloniki, a Greek city on the Aegean Sea, where she has been involved in politics since the age of 14
Ms Kaili has rubbed shoulders with billionaires – including Richard Barnson who invited her to Necker Island in 2017 – and Russian-Greek mnedia mogul Ivan Savvidis
With her arresting good looks, Ms Kaili did a stint on Greek TV presenting the news before being elected to parliament in 2007
Born in the Greek city of Thessaloniki overlooking the Aegean Sea, Ms Kaili was attracted to politics from a young age – joining the youth arm of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, at 14.
She went to university and studied architecture and civil engineering before moving to the Greek capital and earning a master’s degree in European affairs.
Aged 23, she became the youngest member of the Thessaloniki city council in 2002 and – two years later – ran an unsuccessful bid to become the youngest ever candidate for national elections.
A Greek lawmaker from 2007 until 2012, she became the youngest from her party to be elected to Brussels in 2014
However, the attention that garnered did earn her a spot as news presenter on the Mega channel.
She held that job from 2004 until 2007, when she first became a member of the Greek parliament.
Her tenure as a lawmaker in her home country was short but not without controversy – coming as it did during the height of the financial crisis.
She once threatened to de-rail a crucial confidence vote against Prime Minister George Papandreou by refusing to back him, before eventually lending him support.
Ms Kaili also caused controversy after it was revealed she had falsely told interviewers that her grandfather had been by communists, Politico reports.
In 2014, she became the youngest person elected to the EU Parliament by PASOK and relocated to Brussels, where she joined the Socialists and Democrats group.
On the European stage, she became known for working on the bloc’s digital policy agenda during the years in which Margrethe Vestager was waging war to try and reign in marauding tech giants.
Ms Kaili worked mostly on AI, cybersecurity and blockchain – the technology that underlies cryptocurrency.
She was known for working closely with her sister, Mantalena, who ran a think-tank focusing on the impact of laws on new technologies.
Her Instagram reveals her to be a frequent traveller – hopping between her native Greece and the likes of Paris, London, New York and Washington.
Ms Kaili has been dating Francesco Giorgi (right) since 2020, and the pair have an 18-month-old daughter – Ariadni – together, though are not married
The now-44-year-old (right) was known for working on tech policy while at the European Parliament before becoming a vocal advocate of Qatar in recent months
Ms Kaili is aligned to the political left, and is pictured here attending a pre-election party for her Greek socialist party in 2015, in Athens
In one bumper summer in 2017, she took a trip to billionaire Branson’s Caribbean island – Necker – bookended by trips to Croatia and Italy.
‘When you meet legends,’ she captioned a photo of herself sitting alongside Branson, describing herself as ‘happiest me.’
He is hardly the first billionaire to have been seen with her, as Ms Kaili was regularly pictured with Greek-Russian billionaire and media mogul Ivan Savvidis at Athens nightclubs during her days in the Greek capital.
In 2020 she met her partner, now-35-year-old Francesco Giorgi – an Italian native who works as an adviser on the Middle East and North Africa at the EU parliament.
He is also the founder of a think-tank called Fight Impunity which aims to promote ‘accountability as a central pillar of the architecture of international justice.’
The pair are not married but do have a daughter together – 18-month-old Ariadni
Giorgi also has a jet-set Instagram that documents him sailing the Med, skiing in the French Alps, driving a Range Rover and meeting the Dailai Lama.
Then, in January this year, Ms Kaili was elevated to the position of EU parliament vice-president – one of 14 of the lawmaking body’s most-influential members.
And that is where she seems to have come unstuck.
Details about the current scandal are sparse and investigations are ongoing, but on Friday police swooped on places and people across Brussels in a coordinated sting.
The target, officers said, where people and entities accused of taking cash and gifts from powerful figures in Doha in return for siding with them in debates.
Kaili, as the ‘dean’ of a group of pro-Doha politicians within the S&D bloc, was quickly identified as among those targeted. She is thought to be in jail at the moment.
Ms Kaili is now accused of taking bribes from Qatar to influence EU policy debates in the Arab state’s favour (pictured meeting with the minister of labour in Doha in October)
Giorgi, according to reports, was arrested and remains in custody.
Though politicians due usually enjoy diplomatic immunity there is a catch which means they can be prosecuted if caught ‘red handed’ in a criminal act.
Cops are alleged to have found ‘bags’ of money inside Ms Kaili’s home. It is not clear how much exactly, but the total seized in all raids comes to almost £650,000.
In total, four were arrested and charged with ‘criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering’ and two were released.
In return for the cash and gifts – which Qatar vehemently denies giving – Ms Kaili is accused of becoming a vocal defender of Doha in parliament.
Shortly before the World Cup, she travelled alone to the Arab micro-state – after a fuller EU delegation had been told not to come – where she praised their preparations for the tournament.
During a debate on November 24 on a motion to condemn Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, she stood up to praise their progress since being awarded the footballing showpiece event.
And, just 10 days ago, she showed up to vote in favour of weakening visa rules for high-ranking Qataris despite not being a member on the relevant committee.
The backlash has been swift. Over the weekend, Kaili was stripped of her responsibilities as vice president, expelled from her party, and saw Greek prosecutors freeze her assets.
Today, she was sacked as vice president in a 625 to 1 ballot as fellow politicians raced to distance themselves from her.
Ms Kaili has been arrested and charged, along with four others, of ‘criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering’
The parliament’s president, Maltese conservative Roberta Metsola, called the vote after reaching agreement with the leaders of the parliament’s political groupings.
On Wednesday, a Belgian judge will decide whether to maintain Kaili and three co-accused in custody pending trial.
Her lawyer has maintained she is innocent and has ‘nothing to do with’ bribes.
A Belgian judicial source told AFP that investigators believe that figures representing Gulf monarchy Qatar had been paying off European politicians to burnish the country’s image.
Qatar is a key energy supplier to Europe, and plays an important intermediary role in several diplomatic tangles, but it has also been criticised for the alleged mistreatment of migrant workers.
Qatar has denied any involvement in European corruption. ‘Any claims of misconduct by the State of Qatar are gravely misinformed,’ an official told AFP.
Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told private Greek television channel Open TV: ‘Her position is she is innocent. She has nothing to do with Qatar’s bribes.’
Asked if any cash was found at Kaili’s home, Dimitrakopoulos said: ‘I am not confirming or denying. There is confidentiality. I have no idea if money was found or how much was found.’
But Brussels has been rocked by the claims, and Metsola, defending the integrity of the parliament, has sought to portray the alleged bribes as an assault on democracy.
Some MEPs braced for more revelations. ‘I’m fearful that what we’re seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg,’ warned German social democrat Rene Repasi.
Metsola also promised Qatar’s EU visa waiver bid would be sent back to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny, delaying or derailing the measure.