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FILE PHOTO: A statue is seen in front of the courthouse of Brescia ahead of a hearing to decide whether to hand over Maria Dolores Colleoni, wife of former MEP Antonio Panzeri who was arrested in Brussels on charges of corruption in the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, to the Belgian authorities, in Brescia, Italy December 19, 2022. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Belgian court decides to keep EU corruption case suspect in detention

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A Belgian appeals court decided on Tuesday to keep Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, an Italian suspect in a European Parliament corruption scandal, in detention after prosecutors objected to a decision to release him with an electronic tracking bracelet.

Figa-Talamanca is one of four people arrested earlier in December on charges of corruption, money laundering and criminal organisation within the European Parliament, in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Brussels.

The other three, all in pre-trial detention, are Eva Kaili, at the time the vice president of the European Parliament, former EU lawmaker Pier Antonio Panzeri and Kaili’s partner Francesco Giorgi, who was a parliamentary assistant.

Figa-Talamanca was the secretary-general of a human rights campaign group which prosecutors say was used by the suspects to funnel money paid by a Middle Eastern country to buy influence in EU institutions.

The four deny any wrong doing. Police have found around 1.5 million euros ($1.58 million) in cash in various locations linked to the suspects, some of it stashed in a suitcase in a hotel room.

A Belgian court initially agreed to Figa-Talamanca being released with an electronic bracelet, but the prosecution appealed the decision and it was overturned on Tuesday.

“The modality of the electronic bracelet, that was given to N.F-T by the council chamber has been modified to a mere prolongation of the pre-trial detention,” the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement referring to the suspect by his initials.

The statement said a hearing involving suspect Panzeri was postponed at his own request to January 17, 2023.

 

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski)