Italy delays hearing on EU graft scandal suspect on Belgian jail claim

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BRESCIA, Italy (Reuters) – An Italian court on Tuesday postponed until January a hearing on whether to hand over to the Belgian authorities a second woman suspected of involvement in a Qatar graft scandal that has rocked the European Parliament.

An appeals court in the northern city of Brescia said it wanted to review a request brought by lawyers for Silvia Panzeri who argued that she should not be extradited as conditions in Belgian jails are poor because of overcrowding.

Silvia Panzeri, aged 38, is the daughter of former EU lawmaker Pier Antonio Panzeri, who is believed by Brussels prosecutors to be one of the main players in the alleged corruption.

The case will resume on Jan. 3.

The same court, with a different set of judges, had on Monday cleared the transfer to Brussels of Maria Dolores Colleoni, the wife of Pier Antonio Panzeri and Silvia’s mother.

Colleoni remains in Italy and her lawyer Nicola Colli said his client would file an appeal against her transfer with the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court.

Colleoni and Silvia Panzeri have been under house arrest in northern Italy for more than a week in compliance with a European arrest order issued by Belgian magistrates.

They are wanted over their alleged “participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption”.

Belgian prosecutors suspect Greek MEP Eva Kaili and others accepted bribes from World Cup host Qatar in a bid to influence European Union policymaking in one of the biggest scandals to hit the 27-nation bloc.

Extracts of the arrest order seen by Reuters said Panzeri was suspected of receiving payments from Qatar and Morocco to influence people working at the European Parliament, and that his wife and daughter were aware of the activities.

It said the two women took part in the transport of gifts, while Panzeri and his wife used a credit card owned by a third person they called the “giant”. The person was not identified.

Qatar reiterated on Sunday that it had no involvement in the EU corruption scandal.

There has been no immediate reaction to a request for comment from the Moroccan government.

Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Reuters

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