Former Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has failed to overturn a judgment whereby she had lost a libel suit filed against fellow Nationalist MEP David Casa. 

The proceedings were instituted after comments given by Casa to MaltaToday wherein he said that the PL MEP was leasing office premises from her daughter “payment free, necessarily implying these funds are pocketed”.

When testifying in court, Ms Mizzi had explained how she had been offered the premises, owned by her daughter, in Strait Street, Valletta, to be used as an office.

“I’m a person of integrity. No one ever pointed a finger at me,” the MEP had said.

The magistrates’ court had concluded that the comment made by Casa was criticism against a public figure within the ambit of political debate about the need of transparency in the use of public funds. 

Casa’s comments were not deemed “malicious”, Magistrate Rachel Montebello had declared, turning down the libel claim. 

Mizzi filed an appeal.

When delivering judgment on Wednesday, the court, presided over by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, confirmed that decision, stating that the issue concerned criticism about the use of public funds by MEPs.

Both Casa and Mizzi were political figures and thus subject to scrutiny by the public and the media, which was often “harsh and rigorous”.

The court observed that the situation might have been different had Mizzi put forward evidence, such as receipts or audited accounts,  to prove that she had used all her general expenses allowance to cover administrative expenses and so forth.

Nor had it been proved that any unspent amount of that allowance had been paid back to the European Parliament, the court said. 

Had that been proved, then Mizzi would have been justified in saying that Casa’s comments were “malicious”, Judge Mintoff concluded.

Failing that evidence, Casa’s comments were deemed “fair”, concerning a matter of public interest.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi assisted Casa. Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo assisted  Mizzi.

In a tweet, Casa welcomed the decision.

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