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Italian prosecutors have launched a probe related to the EU parliament Qatargate affair as a new front opens up in the EU’s biggest money laundering scandal.
The Italian prosecutor’s office in Milan is investigating two unnamed individuals linked to Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of the European Parliament and the self-proclaimed Kingpin at the core of a corruption scandal surrounding the EU parliament.
Whilst Belgian authorities have accused Panzeri in payment cases involving Qatar and Morocco. The new inquiry is the first time Italian authorities have started a related investigation in what was called the EU’s biggest scandal since the corruption allegations that brought down Jacques Santer, the EU Commission President in the 1990s.
The two suspected individuals investigated in Milan were shareholders in a consultancy formed by Panzeri’s accountant to allegedly cover up bribes received from foreign governments. According to the Italian prosecutor, both suspects acted as fronts for Panzeri and his former assistant, Francesco Giorgi, as the firm’s shareholders between 2019 and 2021.
After being held in custody in Brussels in December 2022, both Panzeri and Giorgi were charged with corruption, money laundering and participation in criminal activities. Panzeri is in detention, whilst Giorgi was released with an electronic tag.
A suitcase containing over €1.5m in cash was recovered by Belgian authorities from the home of the two individuals, belonging to Giorgi’s partner, Eva Kaili (an EU lawmaker), who had attempted to dispose of it. A source close to the investigation revealed that Belgian prosecutor were told by Panzeri that he recieved a total of €2.6m from Morocco, Qatar and Mauritania in his lobbying efforts over a four-year time period.
Panzeri’s accountant, Monica Rossana Bellini, set up a Milan-based Equality Consultancy Srl in cooperation with Giorgi’s father and brother in 2018. One year later, the Giorgi family members left the firm and are not under inquiry in Italy.
The Equity Consultancy was registered at the same address as Bellini’s own tax consultancy in the town of Opera, South of Milan. The accountant’s lawyer in Milan did not immediately respond. Bellini has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Panzeri was still a member of the EU Parliament when the company was set up in December 2018. After which the firm was liquidated at the end of 2020 and was shut down in 2021.