Qatargate investigation shifts to Italy

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Italian officials have launched their own probe into whether a Milan firm, Equality Consultancy, helped launder Qatar’s bribes for EU lawmakers, a person familiar with the investigation confirmed. And on Thursday, three Milan judges will have to decide whether to extradite the firm’s founder, Monica Bellini, to Belgium.  

But first, local officials want to see the latest evidence from Belgium.

Belgian prosecutors have had both Equality and Bellini in their sights for weeks. Bellini served as an accountant for the former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the alleged mastermind of a cash-for-influence network at the Parliament working on behalf of Morocco and Qatar. And her firm, Equality Consultancy, was enmeshed in a web of figures now at the center of the so-called Qatargate scandal. 

Bellini, Belgian investigators wrote in a European arrest warrant obtained by POLITICO, “has played an important role in the return of cash coming from Qatar creating … a firm which could give a legal appearance to the flow of cash.”

Now, the Italian authorities are also separately exploring these connections — a first.

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