Bank accounts and luxury cars have been seized from Italian MEP Stefania Zambelli (Lega Nord) and four of her assistants. The five are suspected of fraud with compensation for an estimated total amount of more than 170,000 euros, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (Eppo) announced on Monday.
The seizure in Brescia, northern Italy, was completed last Thursday by Italy’s Fiod, which worked with Eppo’s branch office in Milan. “It concerns a suspicion of fraud with regard to the remuneration of four parliamentary assistants,” it says in a press release. ‘The estimated damage to the EU budget amounts to 172,148.82 euros.’
The four members of staff ‘did not perform or only partially perform’ the work related to the position for which they had been hired, but nevertheless declared it to the European Parliament. In addition, they misrepresented their qualifications, stating “educational and professional skills” that they lacked, Eppo argues based on the evidence. In other words: resume fraud.
The prosecution believes that Zambelli, who is closely related to at least one of the hired persons, also benefited from the amounts paid by the European Parliament for the work that its employees should have carried out. According to Italian media, the four suspected employees are two men and two women. One of the male assistants is said to be Zambelli’s daughter’s partner.
The 51-year-old MEP denies the allegations and states that neither she nor her associates have committed any criminal offence. “Our work has always been based on the utmost loyalty and transparency towards the institutions and the community,” Zambelli said in a written statement.
According to her, it is a revenge action by a dismissed assistant who has already sued her. “I would like to underline that the parliamentary assistant who gave rise to this procedure with his complaint is the same person who had already denounced me to the European Parliament in 2019, with the same arguments. At the time, this assistant was dismissed ‘for good cause’ without any provision being issued against me. I remain fully at the disposal of the judicial authorities for any clarification”.
According to the Eppo, the fraud case has nothing to do with the bribery scandal in which the European Parliament is involved, which has come to be called Qatargate. Eva Kaili, a former deputy speaker of Parliament, is accused of taking money from Qatar in exchange for influence. She recently appealed a request from Eppo to lift her immunity over alleged irregularities in assistants’ salaries.
Pier Antonio Panzeri, the Italian former member of the European Parliament who is also involved in the corruption case, concluded an agreement with the judiciary in Belgium. He cooperates with the investigators in exchange for a reduced sentence.
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