A court in the northern Italian city of Brescia on Monday approved the handover to Belgian authorities of a woman suspected of involvement in the Qatar bribery scandal rocking the European Parliament. The accused is the wife of former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who is currently under house arrest in Brescia with her adult daughter.
The Brescia Court of Appeal ruled that there were no grounds to prevent the transfer of the accused, who Brussels prosecutors say is one of the key players in the alleged corruption case. The woman and her daughter have been under house arrest for more than a week after Belgian judges issued a European arrest warrant against them. The two women are being investigated for alleged “participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption”.
Angelo De Riso, Panzeri’s wife and daughter’s attorney, upheld the court’s decision. His client now has five days to appeal to the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, he added. De Riso said his client denied wrongdoing, saying she was unaware of her husband’s dealings. The Court of Appeal in Brescia will decide on the extradition of Panzeri’s daughter on Tuesday.
Extracts from the arrest warrant say that Panzeri is suspected of receiving payments from Qatar and Morocco to influence European Parliament officials and that his wife and daughter knew about the activities. Meanwhile, investigators in Italy are checking seven of the suspects’ bank accounts.
Belgian prosecutors suspect Greek MEP Eva Kaili and others of accepting bribes from World Cup hosts Qatar to influence European Union policy. Qatar reiterated on Sunday that it was not implicated in the EU corruption scandal.