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Italy launches money-laundering probe into ‘Qatargate’ associates

Italian prosecutors have opened a money-laundering investigation associated to the European parliament ‘Qatargate’ affair, as a brand new entrance opens up within the largest scandal to hit EU establishments for many years.

Milan’s prosecutor’s workplace is probing two unnamed suspects related to Pier Antonio Panzeri, the self styled kingpin on the coronary heart of the corruption scandal surrounding the European parliament.

Whereas Belgian authorities have charged Panzeri in a case involving funds from Qatar and Morocco, the brand new probe is the primary time Italian authorities have opened a associated investigation in what as broadly seen because the EU’s largest scandal since corruption allegations helped deliver down European Fee president Jacques Santer within the Nineties.

The 2 suspects investigated in Italy had been shareholders in a consultancy arrange by Panzeri’s accountant to allegedly disguise the bribes he obtained from international governments.

Italian prosecutors imagine the 2 males acted as fronts for Panzeri and his former assistant, Francesco Giorgi, as shareholders within the firm between 2019 and 2021.

After being arrested in Brussels in December, each Giorgi and Panzeri have been charged with corruption, cash laundering and participation in a prison group. They’re each co-operating with investigators. Panzeri is at the moment in detention whereas Giorgi has been let out with an digital tag.

Belgian police seized greater than €1.5mn in money on the properties of the 2 males and in a suitcase that Giorgi’s associate, Eva Kaili, herself an EU lawmaker, had sought to do away with with the assistance of her father.

Panzeri advised Belgian prosecutors he obtained a complete of €2.6mn from Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania in trade for his lobbying efforts over the course of 4 years from 2018, in line with one individual near the investigation.

Monica Rossana Bellini, Panzeri’s accountant, in 2018 arrange the Milan-based Equality Consultancy Srl along with Giorgi’s father Luciano and brother Stefano in 2018. The 2 Giorgi relations left the corporate a 12 months later and are at the moment not beneath investigation in Italy.

Equality Consultancy was registered on the similar deal with as Bellini’s personal tax consultancy within the city of Opera, south of Milan.

Bellini’s lawyer in Milan didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. She has beforehand denied any wrongdoing.

When the corporate was arrange in December 2018, Panzeri was nonetheless a member of the European parliament. The corporate was positioned into liquidation on the finish of 2020 and shut down in 2021.

Panzeri’s daughter Silvia and his spouse Maria Dolores Colleoni had been briefly arrested in Italy in December and Belgian authorities sought to have each transferred for prosecution. However as soon as Panzeri struck a plea deal in January, these switch requests had been dropped.

Bellini, who was arrested the next day after Panzeri’s take care of prosecutors and launched final month, is awaiting a call this week on her switch to Belgium.