Qatargate: Monica Rossana Bellini not to be handed over to Belgium

 MILAN – The Court of Appeal decided on Tuesday that Monica Rossana Bellini, the accountant of the former MEP Antonio Panzeri, should not be handed over to Belgium, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported Tuesday. Belgian prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant for Bellini in January for her links to Panzeri’s embroilment in the European Parliament corruption probe. 

 Police arrested Panzeri after finding 600,000 euros at his home in 2022. This cash was allegedly being used to influence EU decisions on Qatar’s visa liberalisation and an aviation deal dating back to 2021. 

 Belgian magistrates insisted that Bellini would have had “an important role in the repatriation of cash coming from Qatar.”

 They also maintained that it would have been Bellini who set up “a structure of companies to guarantee a flow of money with a legal appearance.”

 According to Italian judges, the refusal to hand Bellini over was decided for a “twofold order of reasons.”

 Firstly, the European arrest warrant was issued for “investigative needs” and, according to the court, Belgium could therefore use “other judicial instruments”, such as interrogation, instead of arrest and surrender, to go ahead with the investigation. Milanese magistrates also said that the indictments with which the Belgian magistrates requested her surrender, by means of a European arrest warrant, were “very vaguely worded” and that Bellini had in fact shown “willingness” to cooperate with the Belgian investigators. Moreover, the Brussels judges themselves, faced with requests for clarification from the Milanese magistrates, opposed a “persistent silence.”

 The second reason for the court’s refusal to hand Bellini over to the Belgians is that the Milan Public Prosecutor is now investigating the accountant for money laundering charges between 2018 and 2021. 

 The judges also lifted Bellini’s travel ban which was the last measure hanging over her.