Home Brussels Italy wants more evidence before transferring Qatargate-linked MEP to Belgium, lawyers say

Italy wants more evidence before transferring Qatargate-linked MEP to Belgium, lawyers say

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It is happening again.

Italian judges on Tuesday postponed — for the second time — a ruling on whether to hand over to Belgium the Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, a key suspect in the alleged cash-for-influence network in the European Parliament, his lawyers confirmed to POLITICO.

The reasons, according to Cozzolino’s lawyers, are that the transfer to a Belgian prison might endanger their client’s poor state of health and more specific evidence is needed from prosecutors in Brussels. Cozzolino is currently under house arrest in Naples and attended the court hearing on Tuesday, according to media reports.

In February Belgian prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant for Cozzolino, accusing him of accepting bribes from Morocco in exchange for favoring the country’s interests in the European Parliament.  

Cozzolino’s lawyer Vincenzo Domenico Ferraro told POLITICO that “we submitted a request for further evidence from Belgium on the issue of prisons and on the investigative activities Belgium wants to carry out against Cozzolino.” Ferraro added that these unresolved issues might undermine the constitutional legitimacy of Cozzolino’s transfer to Belgium.

“The report sent by the Belgian Department of Justice provides formal, apparent and generic replies which do not correspond to the queries relating to Cozzolino’s particular case and his disease,” said Cozzolino’s other lawyer Federico Conte, alluding to the MEP’s heart condition.

Cozzolino’s lawyers confirmed that they submitted a medical report claiming that the MEP’s health condition is incompatible with the state of Belgian prisons.

In February, his lawyers argued in court that the alleged overcrowding and violence between detainees in Belgian prisons might endanger their client’s health — which prompted a first delay.

Conte on Tuesday asked for specific guarantees from Belgium on this issue. “We will request [from Belgium] a personalized report which addresses Cozzolino’s health situation and his future route in Belgian prisons,” said the lawyer according to Italian media.

The decision from the judges in Naples comes amid speculation of a standoff between Italian and Belgian prosecutors over the transfer of key suspects in the so-called Qatargate investigation.  

On Thursday, judges in Milan postponed a ruling on Belgium’s request to hand over Monica Bellini, an accountant for former Italian MEP and alleged ringleader of the Brussels bribery network Pier Antonio Panzeri, who faces charges including corruption and money laundering. Italian officials asked for more evidence from Belgian prosecutors, according to Bellini’s lawyers.

Cozzolino’s lawyers confirmed to POLITICO that judges in Naples will reevaluate the request for his transfer to Belgium on April 11.

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