Nationalist MEP David Casa puts uncle and brother-in-law on EP payroll

Nationalist MEP says he is not breaching EP ban on close family relatives being employed as assistants

Nationalist MEP David Casa has defended the employment of his relatives as local assistants
Nationalist MEP David Casa has defended the employment of his relatives as local assistants

The Nationalist MEP David Casa is refuting suggestions that he is employing his family relatives as assistants on the European Parliament payroll, in breach of EP rules.

Casa, an MEP since 2004, denied any breach of EP rules over the employment of Paul Degabriele, his uncle, and Etienne Zammit Guglielmi, his brother-in-law.

Both men are listed as local assistants in the MEP’s transparency declaration.

The European Parliament’s website clearly states that “MEPs may not employ close relatives as assistants”.

Specifically, the implementing measures for the Statute of MEPs bans the recruitment of spouses and non-marital partners, parents, children, brothers or sisters.

While Casa did not deny having employed his relatives in his answer to MaltaToday, the European Parliament’s ban on “close relatives” does not prevent MEPs to instead employ the spouses of one’s siblings, or a parent’s sibling.

“All employees are compliant and in accordance with all employment rules for staff of MEPs. There is no breach of EP rules as you imply in your loaded question,” Casa said at being asked to explain the employment of his maternal uncle and sister’s husband in what appears to be a contravention of the rule.

Casa claimed that similar allegations were made about “another MEP [which] were shown to be false” and insisted that MaltaToday’s assertions had “no basis in reality”.

He was referring to Roberta Metsola, whose assistant is also her brother-in-law.

Casa has published the names of all his Brussels and Malta assistants together with an audited statement of his general expenditure, as part of PN MEPs’ transparency initiative. Only one other Labour MEP does the same.

Casa also told MaltaToday he would “take all necessary action permitted by law” should the newspaper publish the story.

MaltaToday is informed that Etienne Zammit Guglielmi is married to Casa’s sister Dorianne. According to documents seen by MaltaToday, the salaries paid to Casa’s assistants are processed by Pro Corporate Services, a firm owned by Nikki Dimech, the former PN mayor of Sliema who had been impeached by PN councillors over allegations of impropriety and kickbacks on a waste collection service. Dimech was cleared of both threatening a public officer and bribery earlier in July 2018.

MEPs are free to choose their own assistants, but they are barred from working from offices inside their national parties’ general headquarters while claiming expenses for the running of the office from the European Parliament’s expenses.

Last year, Nationalist MEPs denied any wrongdoing after the Labour Party accused them of incorrectly spending part of their monthly €4,000 parliamentary allowances on renting office space at the PN’s headquarters, rather than on local constituency offices. The MEPs replied that the rental agreement was with Media.Link, a company owned by the PN.

According to EU rules, European funds “may not be used for the direct or indirect funding of other political parties” but the EP had specified in the wake of the ‘ghost office’ saga that MEPs who rent offices from a national political party must do so at market price, to prevent an indirect financing of the political party.

But according to Transparency International EU’s policy officer Nick Aiossa in comments to Politico on the case, the EP “negligently provides zero oversight of this allowance… these newest allegations of misuse should be referred to OLAF.”

Malta’s Nationalist MEPs have in the past voted against a proposal obliging MEPs to publish all receipts purchased using the personal allowance. Malta’s three Labour MPs voted in favour of the plan.

It was only in 2008 that MEPs backed a call to stop lawmakers from employing family members, with a generous five-year ‘phasing out’ period. According to the report on the 2006 budgetary discharge, MEPs agreed that “no relatives of Members be employed” – MEPs from both Malta’s Nationalist and Labour parties voted in favour.

However, the ban did not stop MEPs from exploiting loopholes in the system. In 2013 Marie Le Pen employed her ‘partner’, later MEP Loius Aliot, as an assistant. Nigel Farage had employed his wife since 2006 as a parliamentary assistant. When the complete ban entered into force in 2014 it was fellow UKIP MEP Raymond Finch who hired her to be his parliamentary assistant. And several Latvian MEPs have employed each other’s relatives as parliamentary interns.