Marlene Mizzi loses appeal in Casa libel case

Judge Lawrence Mintoff upholds the original decision that ruled against former Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi in a libel case she had filed against PN MEP David Casa

PN MEP David Casa (left) and former PL MEP Marlene Mizzi
PN MEP David Casa (left) and former PL MEP Marlene Mizzi

Former Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has lost her appeal against a decision in a defamation case she had filed against Nationalist Party MEP David Casa over an article published in MaltaToday.

Mizzi had claimed that Casa made defamatory remarks in her regard in comments he gave the newspaper on a story that concerned him.

The article, titled Casa’s Former Aide Says EP Salaries Were Inflated, had sought Casa’s reaction and in his comments, the PN MEP said Mizzi was leasing her offices from her own daughter without needing to pay.

Mizzi argued that the implication was that she pocketed the European Parliament funds allocated to her for renting an office.

When testifying in court, 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.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello, presiding the court of Magistrates had ruled that the former MEP was a political figure and the comment made by Casa was a criticism of a public person within the scope of the political debate over the need of transparency in the use of public funds.

The court had dismissed Mizzi’s case, stating that Casa’s comments had been “an expression of opinion on a matter of public interest” and not malicious.

But Mizzi’s lawyers gave notice of appeal when the judgment was handed down.

In his judgment, delivered on Wednesday, Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, presiding the court of appeal, confirmed the original decision.

The issue was one of use of public funds by MEPs, said the judge, pointing out that both Casa and Mizzi were political figures who were subject to higher levels of scrutiny by the public and the media.

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, the situation might have been different, said the judge.

Mr. Justice Mintoff also noted that it had not been shown that any unspent amount of that allowance had been paid back to the European Parliament. 

In the absence of such evidence, Casa’s comments, concerning a matter of public interest, were to be deemed fair.

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