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EU parliament graft suspects to remain in custody

Two main suspects in a high-profile European Parliament graft investigation will remain in pre-trial detention for at least several weeks, Belgian prosecutors said Tuesday.

At a custody hearing before the Indictment Chamber of the Brussels Court of Justice, Italian former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, 67, asked to postpone his appeal against detention until at least January 17, a statement said.

Another defendant, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, had initially been expected to be released under electronic surveillance, but the court decided to prolong his pre-trial detention.

“It will be for a month,” his lawyer Barbara Huylebroek told AFP, expressing disappointment with the decision.

They have been charged with “criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering” related to an alleged attempt by Gulf monarchy Qatar to influence European Union policy.

Qatar denies any wrongdoing.

Two more defendants — senior Greek MEP Eva Kaili, 44, and her Italian partner Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide — have also been charged and remanded in custody.

All four were arrested earlier this month as Belgian police conducted some 20 searches of homes and offices of MEPs, lobbyists and parliamentary staff.

At least 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash was seized in the raids, which triggered a scandal that sent shockwaves through EU circles in Brussels.