Italian court agrees to extradite EU lawmaker to Belgium

FILE PHOTO: EU parliament vote on lifting immunity of two MEPs in Brussels

MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian court on Tuesday agreed to extradite to Belgium an EU lawmaker under investigation in a cash-for-influence corruption scandal at the European Parliament, one of his lawyers said.

The scandal, the biggest to rock European Union politics in decades, hinges on suspicions that Qatar and Morocco bribed politicians, parliamentary assistants and NGOs to influence decision-making in the EU assembly.

Andrea Cozzolino, European parliamentarian for Italy's centre-left Democratic Party, has been under house arrest in the southern city of Naples since Feb. 10, after he was detained on the basis of a European warrant issued by Belgium.

The 60-year-old lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing.

A court in Naples ruled on Tuesday that Cozzolino could be sent to Belgium. The MEP's lawyer Federico Conte told Reuters he planned to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

According to the Belgian arrest order, Cozzolino is accused, in association with former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, former Vice-President of the EU Parliament Eva Kaili and others, of receiving illicit payments from Morocco.

Kaili has denied any wrongdoing. Morocco has complained of "judicial harassment" since news of the graft probe broke. Qatar has said it had no involvement in the corruption scandal.

Panzeri, who was arrested in Brussels in December, has agreed to cooperate with investigations in exchange for a reduced sentence.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Crispian Balmer)