Italian police arrested the wife and daughter of Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP reportedly detained by police in a mushrooming corruption scandal involving alleged illicit lobbying activities by Qatar, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and confirmed by POLITICO.
Belgian police searched 16 homes and detained at least four people in and around Brussels on Friday as part of an inquiry into what prosecutors called “criminal organization, corruption and money laundering” involving a Gulf state, which Belgian press named as World Cup host Qatar. As well as Panzeri, an Italian who served with the center-left Socialists and Democrats group until 2019, European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili was also detained, according to the Belgian press.
On Friday, Italian uniformed and plain clothes police, acting on a European arrest warrant, detained Panzeri’s wife Maria Colleoni, 68, at home in Calusco d’Adda, close to Bergamo, according to the arrest warrant, which seen by POLITICO. They arrested his 38-year-old daughter Silvia later. Their lawyer declined to comment to the paper and did not pick up the phone when contacted by POLITICO.
The warrant accused Panzeri of “intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco.” The warrant accuses the wife and daughter of participating in a criminal organization and of money laundering with a possible sentence of 5 years.
The suspicion of the Brussels investigators is that Qatar used money and gifts to influence economic and political decisions in the European Parliament. Panzeri, who used to chair the European Parliament sub-committee on human rights, is the head of an NGO called Fight Impunity which sets out to “promote the fight against impunity in the event of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.” The NGO was raided yesterday, according to Belgian press reports.
During the searches carried out on Friday, more than half a million euros in cash was discovered at the Brussels home of Panzeri, the Belgian paper le Soir reported.
Kaili was suspended from her party Friday after news of the investigation rocked the European Parliament.
This article has been updated with details about the arrest warrant.
Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.