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  4. Panzeri accountant arrested in Qatargate probe

Panzeri accountant arrested in Qatargate probe

Woman charged with corruption after client agrees to collaborate

(ANSA) - ROME, JAN 18 - The family accountant of former MEP Antonio Panzeri, one of the ringleaders of the European Parliament suspected bribery and corruption case dubbed Qatargate, was arrested by Milan prosecutors on a European arrest warrant issued by Belgian prosecutors in the scandal on Wednesday.
    The woman, Monica Rossana Bellini, has been charged with criminal conspiracy, corruption and money laundering.
    Her offices were recently searched in the case, which also reportedly involves Morocco as well as Qatar.
    Chief 'Qatargate' suspect and centre-left Italian ex-MEP Panzeri on Tuesday cut a deal for a one-year jail term with Belgian prosecutors probing the alleged corruption case involving the Mideast country.
    In Belgium's second such plea bargain for those who repent their crimes, Panzeri signed a confession in exchange for the jail time, a fine and the confiscation of all his criminal assets, estimated to be worth some one million euros," Belgian federal prosecutors said.
    He has agreed to help police with their inquiries.
    The plea bargain came after his lawyer said those probed risked up to four years in jail and media reported that Panzeri had given fellow suspect and Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella around 120-140,00 euros in the case.
    It also came a day after a Brescia court approved a request by Belgian prosecutors for the extradition of his daughter in relation to the so-called Qatargate scandal.
    Panzeri's wife, Maria Dolores Colleoni, had already seen the request for her extradition approved. The two cases will now be put to the supreme Court of Cassation.
    Panzeri, who is in jail in Belgium, his daughter Silvia and Colleoni are accused of involvement in alleged efforts by Morocco and Qatar to condition EU affairs via bribery.
    Panzeri has been charged with corruption along with fellow Italians Francesco Giorgi, an assistant to Democratic Party (PD) MEP Andrea Cozzolino and Niccolo' Figa'-Talamanca, the secretary general of the No Peace Without Justice NGO.
    Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who was removed from her position as European Parliament vice president after the scandal exploded, has been charged too. Kaili is Giorgi's partner.
    A total of around 1.5 million euros in cash has been seized by Belgian prosecutors from the homes of Kaili and Panzeri and from a suitcase in the possession of Kaili's father in relation to the case.
    Kaili's lawyer recently denied media reports that Kaili, who has been in jail since December 9, has confessed to telling her father to hide packs of banknotes and to being aware of alleged illegal conduct by Giorgi.
    The reports in the Belgian media said Panzeri had admitted involvement too and said he had alleged that Belgian MEP and fellow Socialist Tarabella had benefited from 'gifts' from Qatar.
    Panzeri is a 67-year-old member of the left-wing Article One party and of the directorate of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) alliance, the oldest European caucus.
    He was an MEP for three terms from 2004 to 2019, serving as chair of the subcommittee on human rights.
    A European warrant for the arrest of Panzeri's wife and daughter said that the former MEP "seems to have developed and driven...a vast fraudulent organization". (ANSA).


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