Where’s the evidence? Italy wants more before extraditing Qatargate-linked accountant
It’s the second time Milan judges have punted on a decision, asking for more documents from Belgium in a case that may shed light on how alleged bribes were passed to Brussels.
MILAN — Here we go again.
Milan judges on Thursday postponed — yet again — a ruling on Belgium’s request to extradite Monica Bellini, an Italian accountant linked to the alleged bribery ring rocking the European Parliament.
Their reason, according to Bellini’s lawyer: Belgium still hasn’t sent over enough evidence and they want to see more.
“The judges reiterated their request for the Belgian authorities to send the relevant documents,” the lawyer, Franca De Candia, told POLITICO following the closed-door hearing, which only lasted a few minutes.
It’s the second time Milan judges have kicked the can down the road, prompting raised eyebrows, sighs and disappointment among those eager for more intel about whether alleged bribes were laundered through Milan to Brussels. Bellini served as a Milan-based accountant for former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the alleged ringleader of the Brussels bribery network.
De Candia expressed her own frustration at the delay, arguing the Belgian authorities have yet to actually explain why they want to extradite her client.
“This situation is starting to look ridiculous,” De Candia said, noting the Belgians “have had four months to reply but we still haven’t heard anything.”
The outcome was widely expected after judges indicated to reporters on Wednesday that they were still waiting for their Belgian counterparts to send more documents.
Belgian authorities have been eyeing Bellini for her work at the Equality Consultancy, a Milan firm now under investigation in Italy for possibly laundering Qatar’s bribes for EU lawmakers.
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.”
De Candia denies her client has done anything wrong. Panzeri has already admitted to bribing EU lawmakers as part of a plea deal with authorities.
Thursday’s outcome is not a first. In January, local judges also postponed a decision on whether to hand Bellini over to the Belgians, according to a document seen by the Italian daily La Repubblica.
Italian judges indicated they will re-examine the extradition request on May 9, Bellini’s lawyer said. But expectations in Milan were downbeat Thursday, with speculation that the process may be delayed yet again.
A person familiar with the proceedings said they didn’t see an imminent end to the standoff between the Italian and Belgian authorities, adding that there has been a lot of political posturing from both sides.