The EPP member in Greece, New Democracy, announced the first half of candidates for the European elections. So far, the party has announced 22 of the 42 names, among which the 4 sitting MEPs for the party who were reconfirmed to be candidates for the May election. This includes Manolis Kefalogiannis, the current leader of the New Democracy delegation in the European Parliament, who for many months has been under investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) for fraud and irregularities concerning payments.
OLAF confirmed to New Europe on February 11 that the investigation on MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis is still open and on-going, meaning that Kefalogiannis enters the race with the weight of the investigation on his shoulders. Responding to New Europe, the OLAF Press Office said:
“OLAF can confirm that is investigating allegations of fraud and irregularities concerning the use of parliamentary assistance allowances by [MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis]. However, as an investigation is on-going, OLAF cannot issue any further comment. This is in order to protect the confidentiality of on-going and possible ensuing investigations, subsequent judicial proceedings, personal data and procedural rights.”
During the European Parliament session in late October, the plenary rejected lifting the immunity of the leader of the European Parliamentary Group of the EPP affiliated New Democracy party of Greece. Kefalogiannis is under investigation in a case alleging (among other things) tax evasion. A former assistant of MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis, who brought the case to light, alleged that MEP had asked for part of her salary to be returned to him – an amount totalling €127,000 according to press reports.
The case of Kefalogiannis is critical at this moment in time because as New Europe explained in an exposé in November, whether Kefalogiannis is innocent or guilty, the practices being investigated are wide-spread in the European Parliament. This could in part explain why the Parliament voted against lifting his immunity – a rather rare occurrence.
New Democracy considers that all current MEPs are de facto on the list to run again for the upcoming elections, and no-doubt the presumption of innocence must apply – but considering that the Party was not under time pressure to announce the candidates yet (indeed they have another 20 candidates to announce), it raises the question of why did the Party not wait until the last moment in hope that the investigation would clear up, one way or another?