A Dublin-based man from Germany is facing charges for homicide and destruction of his wife’s body while on board a Mediterranean cruise ship.
Italian investigators announced today that their preliminary investigation into the mystery disappearance of Chinese national Xing Li (38), had concluded.
Mr Belling’s lawyer Luigi Conti told Independent.ie that he had been informed of the development in the long-running case this morning.
“Mr Belling stands accused of two crimes,” he said.
“The first is homicide and the second is the destruction of the body, in the sea, where it has likely been destroyed by fish. These are very serious crimes and he faces life in prison.”
Mr Conti said he had tried to make contact with his client, who he believes is currently in Germany.
“I cannot comment further until I speak to Daniel,” he said.
Mr Belling returned to Ireland in 2018 after 14 months on remand in an Italian jail in relation to the disappearance of his wife.
His solicitor persuaded authorities to release him from custody and he returned to the home he shared with his wife in Clarehall, Co. Dublin. He is understood to have been living there until recently.
Xing Li, also known as Angie, has not been seen since February 10 2017.
She and Mr Belling and their two children boarded the cruise ship MSC Magnifica in the Italian port of Civitavecchia on February 9.
After the ship set sail, it called at Genoa and ports in Malta, Greece and Cyprus.
Crew members noticed Xing Li was missing when they did a head count at the end of the cruise.
Mr Belling and the couple's two children were stopped by Italian police at Rome's Ciampino Airport on February 17 after Xing Li could not be accounted for.
They were about to board a Ryanair flight back home.
Mr Belling has repeatedly denied killing his wife.
Investigators thought they had a breakthrough in the case in March 2017 when a suitcase containing the body of an Oriental woman was found floating in the Adriatic Sea off Italy's east coast.
However, the body was not that of Xing Li.
Mr Belling reportedly told an Italian judge that he and his wife had fought and that she wanted to "quit the trip".
According to reports in the Italian press, he claimed his wife left the ship when he and the children joined a shore excursion. Mr Conti has said that he now has incontrovertible proof that Xing Li had been planning to disappear before she even set foot on the ship.
"Interviews Li did with psychologists and doctors in Ireland before they ever went on the cruise prove she was planning on leaving Daniel," he said.
"In the statements, which I have copies of, she says in her own words, 'My life in Ireland is like a prison. I want to go back to China and leave the children with Daniel'."
Mr Conti said that in interviews with police, Xing Li's mother defended Daniel, saying it was impossible that he killed her daughter.
Speaking in Italy after his release in 2018, Mr Belling told reporters he believed he was set up by his wife after she arranged her disappearance.
Mr Belling described her as a "cruel person" for allowing him to spend 14 months in jail for a crime "she knows I did not commit".
"I think my wife is most probably in China," he said. "There is a small probability that something happened to her in Greece, but I believe she is in China. I was worried about my wife for the first few weeks, but not anymore. I think she knows I have been imprisoned."
Mr Belling, who said he is not angry, claimed his wife "always had a very strange personality".