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Qatargate : Arrest of a former MEP's tax accountant on suspicion of money laundering

The tax consultant of a former MEP at the center of a  cash-for-influence corruption scandal in the European Parliament has been detained in Italy.

A European warrant issued by Belgium led to the arrest of Monica Rossana Bellini, a former employee of Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of the European Parliament from the center-left, by the Guardia di Finanza tax police in Milan.

She is accused of participating in criminal activity, corruption, and money laundering.

The accountant is suspected of setting up businesses to launder alleged corruption money, per the European arrest warrant.

Requests for comments from her two attorneys were not answered.

A Belgian prosecutor said on Tuesday that Panzeri, who was arrested in Brussels in December and charged with three others, including Greek EU legislator Eva Kaili, has decided to assist with investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence.

The largest scandal to shake EU politics in decades focuses on allegations that Morocco and Qatar bribed politicians, aides to parliament, and non-governmental organizations in order to sway the EU assembly's votes.

Qatar emphasized once more that it was not a party to the EU corruption issue. Following the fraud investigation, Morocco alleged "judicial harassment."

A judicial source claimed that later on Wednesday, a judge of the Milan appeals court upheld the arrest and ordered Bellini 's house arrest.

An appeals court hearing to decide whether to turn her over to Belgian police will take place around the end of the month.

Eva Kaili, a Greek EU politician who was charged with Panzeri when he was detained in Brussels in December, has agreed to collaborate with investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence, a Belgian prosecutor said on Tuesday.

According to Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the prosecution, his punishment would include one year in jail, four years of incarceration with a suspended sentence, a fine, and the confiscation of all assets acquired,  worth an estimated 1 million euros ($1.08 million).

From 2004 to 2019, Panzeri was a member of the European Parliament. After leaving the EU chamber, he founded the Fight Impunity NGO in Brussels, which is charged with accepting the fraudulent money from Morocco and Qatar.

Other Panzeri family members, including his wife Maria Dolores Colleoni and daughter Silvia, who were wanted by Belgian authorities, were placed under house arrest by Italian officials last month.

They have said they did nothing wrong. Silvia Panzeri's extradition to Belgium was approved by a court on Monday, but Colleoni has appealed against that decision to Italy's highest court, which is scheduled to issue its decision on January 31.


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