ROME — An Italian court ruled Monday that the wife of former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri can be extradited to Belgium for charges in the alleged Qatar corruption scandal that has rocked the European Parliament.
Maria Dolores Colleoni was arrested in Italy earlier this month, along with her daughter, Silvia Panzeri, accused of corruption, money laundering and criminal association. Her husband’s think tank, Fight Impunity, is among the groups at the center of the so-called Qatargate scandal, and he was arrested in Belgium, accused of “intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco.”
Belgian authorities believe Colleoni was fully aware of her husband’s activities, according to an arrest warrant seen by POLITICO. Each family member has denied the accusations.
Prosecutors in Brussels had requested the extradition of both Colleoni and her daughter, whose case will be heard by a separate panel of judges on Tuesday. Colleoni’s lawyers, Angelo De Riso and Nicola Colli, argued that sending Colleoni to Belgium, where she would be held in jail pending trial rather than under house arrest, would violate her human rights. Her defense team also claimed she could cooperate with investigators from Italy, using a law allowing remote interrogations.
But after five hours of proceedings, the judges in Brescia, near Milan, ultimately approved the Belgian request, rejecting the arguments of the defense.
Colleoni will not be sent to Belgium immediately, however: The defense has five days to appeal the case to Italy’s Court of Cassation.