Updated 6.50pm, judicial protest filed
Entrepreneur Diane Izzo has filed a judicial protest against Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi after he suggested that the Dizz business empire she leads was a money-laundering vehicle.
The CEO of fashion retailer Dizz Group filed the protest to rebut the “insinuations and sensational and malicious allegations”.
In a Facebook post, Dr Azzopardi had argued that the Dizz Group should be investigated.
“If we really had a functioning Economic Crimes Unit, it would investigate the bosom friends of the Muscat couple & the so called Dizz Group,” he wrote.
In the judicial protest, Ms Izzo threatened to take further legal action, unless Dr Azzopardi removed the offending post, retracted his allegations and tendered a public apology.
The protesting party claimed that Dizz Group “is a leading operator in the retail fashion sector and operates several food establishments and other businesses. For the past 20 years, it has built and expanded its business and to date has an impeccable reputation.”
Dr Azzopardi's allegations were evidently prompted by “partisan reasons” and were “intended solely to defame and damage the reputation of the company and its business”.
The MP had “given a manipulated interpretation of the financial report he quoted, by presenting selected figures and not giving a clear picture of the group’s financial position,” the judicial document stated.
“He did not say that the company has been operating for the past twenty years and over these years had built a strong brand through strong, measured steps, hard work and absolute diligence that allowed it to gradually expand and diversify its business.”
“Every commercial decision taken by the plaintiff was always legal, legitimate, according to its financial obligation and in the best interests of its investors, as can be easily verified.”
Mr and Mrs Izzo are personal friends of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle.
Quoting from a company report on the 2014-2017 period, Dr Azzopardi argued that the company had made an average of just under €15,000 in profit from each of its 33 fashion outlets.
“Would you open 33 (thirty three) outlets for a mere €14,932 profit pre tax (circa €10,000 net profits) per outlet?” he asked, adding that a bond launched by the group was also performing poorly.
He went on to note that “money laundering is facilitated a lot by having a big number of outlets”.
The Dizz group, which is jointly run by Ms Izzo and her husband Karl, was set up in 2000 and has grown exponentially over the past years.
It holds the rights to franchises such as Terranova, Guess, Trussardi, Paul and Shark, Cafe Pascucci, Liu-Jo and Nespresso, among others. The parent company also has a financial interest in Qormi shopping centre Centreparc and plans to develop retail and office space at Sliema Wanderers FC pitches in Tigne.
According to its interim financial statements for the first six months of 2019, the Group registered a pre-tax profit of €178,409, mirroring its results for the first half of 2018.