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Qatargate: Italian court blocks extradition of accountant to Belgium

An Italian court on Tuesday refused to hand over to Belgian authorities the tax consultant of a former EU lawmaker at the center of a cash-for-influence corruption scandal at the European Parliament.

The scandal, the biggest to rock EU politics in decades, hinges on suspicions that Qatar and Morocco bribed politicians, parliamentary assistants and NGOs to influence decisions of the EU assembly.

Antonio Nova, presiding judge of an appeals court in Milan, said the court had not received adequate documentation from the Belgian authorities to support the request to extradite Monica Rossana Bellini.

The court also lifted a ban on travelling outside of Italy for Bellini, who worked for former center-left parliamentarian Pier Antonio Panzeri.

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In addition to Bellini’s lawyers, Milan general prosecutor Simonetta Bellaviti also opposed the extradition request on Tuesday, acknowledging the lack of documentation.

Bellini had been under house arrest from January 16, when she was arrested in Milan under a European arrest warrant from Belgium, to February 10, when Italian judges revoked that measure.

She faces charges of criminal association, corruption and money laundering. According to the European arrest order, the accountant is suspected of setting up companies to launder illicit funds.

Her two lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

Qatar has said that it had no involvement in the EU corruption scandal. Morocco has complained of “judicial harassment” since news of the graft probe broke.

Panzeri, who was arrested in Brussels in December and charged with three others, including Greek EU lawmaker Eva Kaili, has agreed to cooperate with investigations in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Panzeri served as a member of the European Parliament from 2004-2019. After leaving the EU chamber he set up a Brussels-based NGO called Fight Impunity, which is accused of taking illegal payments from Qatar and Morocco.

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