In 2021, we requested from the European Parliament all information showing how Ioannis Lagos, a neo-nazi Member of the European Parliament who is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence in Greece, is spending the funds that are available to him as an MEP.
The EU Parliament confirmed it holds 93 documents related to Lagos’ expenses but refused to disclose any of them, alleging it would be a violation of Lagos’ privacy. Defending there is a great public interest in making this information public, we took the EU Parliament to court in July 2022.
On Thursday 5 October we will be in Luxembourg, at the Court of Justice of the European Union, to fight for the disclosure of the 73 documents that show how a jailed prominent neo-nazi is making use of public funds.
Ioannis Lagos: a nazi, a convicted criminal, a Member of the European Parliament
In October 2020, a landmark ruling in Greece declared Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-nazi party, a criminal organisation. Golden Dawn was dissolved and its leadership received prison sentences; it was an important and joyful victory in the fight against fascism that was celebrated in Greece and all around Europe.
Among the leading party members receiving a criminal conviction was Ioannis Lagos. Lagos was found guilty of running the criminal organisation that was Golden Dawn, as well as orchestrating the stabbing of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and other violent attacks. For this, he was sentenced to 13 years and 8 months in prison.
During Lagos’ time in the organisation, Golden Dawn was described to be operating “like a criminal mob, destroying property, intimidating people, attacking leftist organizations and migrants and murdering an antifascist musician.”
In 2019, Lagos was one out of two representatives of Golden Dawn to win a seat at the European Parliament. Shortly after being sworn as a member of parliament (MEP), however, he announced he would part ways with Golden Dawn and instead occupy his seat as an independent. In his announcement, and in reference to the trial against Golden Dawn which was already ongoing at the time, Lagos stood by his party and claimed: “Golden Dawn was not, and never will be, a criminal organization.” He was proved wrong 15 months later.
Business as usual in Brussels
Lagos received his 13-year prison sentence already as an MEP and living in Brussels. This meant that, thanks to the immunity all MEPs are granted when they take office, he was able to avoid extradition to Greece for over 7 months while the European Parliament was processing the request from Greece to have Lagos’ immunity lifted.
During this 7-month period, Lagos was able to live a normal and free life in Brussels. He gave speeches in the European Parliament. He vowed to make use of the funds that were made available to him as an MEP, which amount to almost €5,000 per month on top of his salary.
In parallel, Lagos persistently refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Golden Dawn trial, which he called a sham. He appealed the verdict. He claimed that he was being politically persecuted, and openly stated that he was making arrangements to seek asylum elsewhere in Europe - likely in Norway - in order to escape his prison sentence.
On 26 April 2021, the European Parliament voted to lift Lagos’ immunity. Earlier that day, Lagos had been pictured taking a Covid-19 test, a prerequisite for travel at the time. The neo-nazi MEP was finally arrested in Brussels on 27 April 2021 and extradited to Greece, where he since serves his prison sentence.
MEP via a prison cell
Lagos remains a member of parliamentary committees. He’s able to write legislation and often writes amendments seeking to impose his neo-nazi ideals. He gives speeches, writes questions and proposes motions – all from his prison cell in Greece.
Lagos also corresponds frequently with his fellow Members of the EU Parliament. He has sent multiple e-mails asking his peers to vote to have his immunity reinstated, or to “be allowed to join as a volunteer of the Ukrainian forces” (even if Lagos had been one of the few MEPs who voted against condemning the Ukraine invasion).
While serving his prison sentence, Lagos also continues to receive his salary as an MEP: a monthly gross salary of almost €10,000. When he turns 63 years old, he will be entitled to a pension like any of his peers. From prison, he also continues to have access to Parliamentary funds and resources; Greek media have in fact reported that a car made available to him is still in use by one of his assistants.
While it is currently unknown whether Lagos intends to run again in the 2024 European elections, it is quite certain that he will be allowed to finish his mandate with astounding normality in spite of his criminal conviction. Beyond the lifting of his immunity, the European Parliament has taken no visible steps to acknowledge - let alone address - the deep democratic flaw Lagos represents.
The lack of public oversight over Lagos’ use of the parliamentary funds is particularly alarming. Given Lagos neo-nazi ideology, prominence within the Greek far right, and criminal record, allowing him to have access to public funds that are, by design, unaccountable, is already unacceptable and deeply concerning. Furthermore, the fact that the European Parliament is choosing to hide from the public the information on Lagos’ use of these funds is shameful – and something we are determined to fight in court.