The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

Former MFA boss loses two libel suits over Bayern Munich game misappropriation claims

Neil Camilleri Thursday, 2 February 2017, 11:22 Last update: about 5 years ago

A court has thrown out two libel suits filed by former MFA President Joe Mifsud against his successor, Norman Damanin Demajo, and two journalists.

Dr Mifsud had sued Mr Darmanin Demajo and Illum editor Kurt Sansone and journalist Mark Attard over an infamous deal with German football team Bayern Munich.

In 2007 a German magazine and BBC’s Panorama had reported that money paid to the Malta Football Association for the 2000 match between Malta and Bayern Munich had not been routed to the organization. It was also claimed that the MFA did not distribute all funds given to it by UEFA for local clubs.

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The foreign media had said that the money paid to Dr Mifsud, as MFA President, went into a trust fund when the MFA did not own such a structure.

Following the reports, Mr Darmanin Demajo requested, in a letter, an investigation into contracts signed by the MFA President, alleging corruption, misappropriation of funds and breach of the MFA statute.

Joe Mifsud then filed for libel against Mr Darmanin Demajo and also against the journalists, for running a story about the letter. Both libel cases were heard together.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said in his judgement today that it had been proved that not all UEFA funds had been distributed.

With regard to the Bayern Munich claims, the court also found that Dr Mifsud had repeatedly negotiated and signed agreements on television and advertising rights – involving large sums of money - on his own. This was in breach of the MFA statute.

He would then present the agreements to the MFA council for ratification. The court said it was difficult to understand how the council would refuse, seeing that the contracts tabled before it would have already been signed.

It said Dr Mifsud should have shown the council the Bayern Munich contract – worth $250,000 – before he signed it, not after.

The court also said it found it strange that the payable sum was scribbled on the contract after the document was signed, without signatures it by the parties.

"This was a clear indication that the figure was written in after the contract was finalised and signed, and therefore it was not necessarily a reflection of the sum that may originally have been agreed by Dr Mifsud alone, without MFA authorisation, and without him having discussed it with anyone," the court said.

The court, acknowledging the work Dr Mifsud had done for local football, said the fact he negotiated deals on his own without seeking prior approval could lead people to believe that he had something to hide.

Such behaviour inevitably led to doubts, including in the foreign press.

This happened at a time when it was being alleged that there was corruption in the way Germany has been chosen as a host for the 2006 World Cup.

It had been alleged that some members of the FIFA executive had been given $300,000. Dr Mifsud was, at the time, a member of the FIFA executive and the kickbacks were reportedly paid through the same company with which Dr Mifsud had, on his own, negotiated the Bayern match a few weeks previously.

In light of this, the court said Mr Darmanin Demajo's comments and calls were fair. As a result, both libel suits were thrown out. 

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