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The ‘giant’ and the Moroccan envoy tied to the EU Parliament scandal

The ‘giant’ and the Moroccan envoy tied to the EU Parliament scandal

An extradition request unravels some of the mystery at the heart of the ex-MEP accused of illegally lobbying for Qatar and Morocco.
The money came from someone they called the “giant.”

And this enigmatic “giant” was linked to a credit card. That credit card was in the hands of the wife and daughter of Pier Antonio Panzeri, an ex-European Parliament member, who used it for their own purposes.

This is just one of many surreal details buried in a colorful extradition request from a Belgian prosecutor seeking to uncover whether Qatar and Morocco bought influence in the European Parliament. Panzeri’s family is part of a widening international probe that has already nabbed one prominent MEP, Eva Kaili, and left Brussels wondering who might be next. 

According to the extradition request seen by POLITICO, Panzeri, a former Italian socialist MEP, stands accused of leaning on his former Parliament colleagues for Qatar and Morocco’s benefit — and taking money to do so. 

His family, investigators write, appeared wise to his illicit behavior, according to the warrant.

Panzeri’s wife, Maria Dolores Colleoni, and his daughter Silvia Panzeri “seem to be fully aware of the activities,” it says, “and to even participate in the transport of the gifts.”

The man behind these gifts? Abderrahim Atmoun, Morocco’s ambassador to Poland, according to the document.

But is Atmoun the giant? It doesn’t say. 

The extradition request also includes intimate details of family discussions. There’s chatter about money and haggling over posh vacation plans. 

Panzeri’s wife, it reads, “had taken a look at the prices for a family trip during the Christmas break,” and, “she told him that she could not afford to spend 100,000 euros for the holidays, like last year, and thought that the current proposal, i.e. 9,000 euros per person for the accommodation only, was too expensive.”

The document picks up on Colleoni’s language choice to insinuate Panzeri’s guilt. It describes how she discussed Panzeri’s business matters, noting she favored the French word “combines” — or “schemes” in English — “to refer to the trips and business of her husband.”

The word, investigators write, “is pejorative and suggests that her husband uses ingenious and often unfair means to achieve his aims.”

The document also recounts Panzeri’s wife urging her husband to open a Belgian bank account. And she apparently insisted “that she did not want him to do stuff and all types of operations without her being able to control him.”

Similar allegations befall the couple’s daughter, Silvia, in the document. 

When talking about the gifts from the Morocco ambassador, the document specifies that “the offences are mentioned in the transcript of phone taps, during which Mrs Panzeri made comments about the giving of the ‘gifts’ from which she then apparently benefited.”

Both the mother and daughter are accused in the document of participation in a criminal organization, corruption and laundering the proceeds of the crime. They risk up to five years in jail.

The document stressed that all three are innocent until proven guilty and makes clear that the offenses were committed between January 1, 2021, and December 8, 2022, when the Italian police took them into custody.  

The pair have denied any wrongdoing to the Italian authorities, which agreed they can be extradited to Belgium. Atmoun, the Moroccan ambassador, has not replied to a request for comment. 

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