Italy agrees to extradite the wife of the ‘Qatargate’ leader to Belgium

The wife of Antonio Panzeri, former Italian MEP and alleged ringleader of the plot known as Qatargate, may be extradited and imprisoned in Belgium. An Italian appeals court in Brescia (Lombardy) decided this Monday afternoon to accept the request of the Belgian judicial authorities for Maria Dolores Colleoni to travel to Brussels for questioning. The decision was made after almost five hours of deliberations, but the defendant’s lawyers – for corruption and money laundering – now have five days to appeal. For now, she Colleoni must return to prison and leave the house arrest in which she had been with her daughter for 10 days.

During the interrogation carried out on Monday morning in a Brescia court, Colleoni, 67, a retired housewife, gave details about the investigation that has been carried out since Belgium and that places her and her daughter as accomplices from Panzeri. In fact, the judge accuses them of being aware of the corruption operations and of having been favored with gifts and money. Among other things, she had to explain an alleged family vacation that cost 100,000 euros and was paid by third parties whom her husband favored. Presumably emissaries from Qatar and Morocco. “That vacation never happened. And, furthermore, I did not know about my husband’s business ”, he would have argued before the judge, according to what the Italian press has published.

Colleoni’s lawyers asked for more time to organize his defense. And later they opposed her extradition request, alleging that if the order is fulfilled, the defendant would end up directly in prison (since she does not have an address in Belgium) and her rights would be violated. Silvia Panzeri, daughter of the main defendant, is also under house arrest these days and must appear this Tuesday before another court to decide on her situation.

The Belgian prosecutor’s office suspects that the Greek MEP Eva Kaili and others involved in the plot – to date, the majority are Italian – would have accepted bribes from Qatar, host of the World Cup, and from Morocco, in an attempt to influence EU policy-making. The case is one of the biggest scandals that have plagued the bloc of Twenty-seven and at the top of the system, the investigation places Antonio Panzeri, an Italian politician who had been in Brussels for 23 years and whom hardly anyone remembered these days in his country. . A leader of the Democratic Party —with affiliation to the Communist Party and trade union movements— that he recently joined Articolo 1, a formation born from one of the many splits on the left and which demanded greater ideological purity.

The investigation also points to his former assistant Francesco Giorgi (35 years old), partner of the vice president of Parliament dismissed by the scandal, Kaili, and current assistant to the Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino (also from the Democratic Party). The latter has self-suspended from office. In addition, Luca Visentini, also Italian and General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, was arrested and later released.

The wiretaps carried out by the Milan Prosecutor’s Office and the documents leaked to the Italian press, in fact, now point to a Moroccan connection to the plot. The arrest warrant for the daughter and the wife of the alleged ringleader, where the transcripts appear, implicates both relatives – on whom an extradition order from the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office weighs – and points to a person whom in the intercepted conversations they call “The Giant [el gigante, en francés]” as the alleged holder of the card used by the family for personal expenses. A clue that would suggest that he not only benefited from possible bribes from Qatar, but also from his links with Morocco.

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.


Follow all the international information on Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

Italy agrees to extradite the wife of the ‘Qatargate’ leader to Belgium