Italy agrees to transfer suspect in EU graft scandal to Belgium

Italy agrees to transfer suspect in EU graft scandal to Belgium

An Italian court on Monday agreed to hand over to the Belgian authorities a second woman suspected of involvement in a Qatar graft scandal that has rocked the European Parliament.

An appeals court in the northern city of Brescia said Silvia Panzeri, 38, could be extradited, after having twice postponed a ruling pending a report on conditions in Belgian jails.

Her lawyers had said last month the request should have been rejected because of overcrowding in Belgian jails, and the judges asked for information from Brussels on its prison system that has taken several weeks to arrive.

Panzeri is the daughter of former EU lawmaker Pier Antonio Panzeri, who is believed by Brussels prosecutors to be one of the main players in the alleged corruption. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The same court, with a different set of judges, had already cleared the transfer to Brussels of Maria Dolores Colleoni, the wife of Pier Antonio Panzeri and mother of Silvia.

Colleoni is still in Italy, however, because her lawyers filed an appeal against her transfer with Italy’s highest appeals court which is expected to decide on Jan. 31.

Angelo De Riso, a lawyer for Silvia Panzeri, said his team would decide in the next five days whether to pursue an appeal to the highest court.

He described the response from the Belgian authorities on jail conditions as not sufficient.

Colleoni and Silvia Panzeri have been under house arrest in northern Italy since Dec. 10, in compliance with a European arrest order issued by Belgian magistrates over their alleged “participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption”. They have denied any involvement.

Last week, an Italian court upheld the seizure of two bank accounts containing 247,000 euros ($267,000) that belong to Colleoni, Pier Antonio and Silvia Panzeri, rejecting an appeal by their lawyers to unfreeze the accounts.

The accounts had been seized in December by Italian prosecutors at the request of Belgian magistrates.

Belgian prosecutors suspect Greek MEP Eva Kaili and others accepted bribes from World Cup host Qatar in a bid to influence European Union policymaking in one of the biggest scandals to hit the 27-nation bloc.

Qatar has said it had no involvement in the EU scandal. Kaili has denied wrongdoing. 


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