Two EP candidates tell magistrate they broke law
'Everyone should observe the law'
Two EP candidates took an oath before a magistrate in court last Friday declaring that their campaign expenses were in breach of the electoral law.
Nationalist Party candidates Edward Demicoli and Frank Portelli said before magistrate Silvio Meli that while their personal expenses were within the legal limit of €18,635, the support by third parties meant they surpassed it.
The candidates' declaration read: "This law, using the broadest terms possible, states that 'all money' provided by 'any person' other than the candidate, for 'any expenses' incurred on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of the election, whether as a gift, loan, advance or deposit should be paid to the candidate or his election agent, such that said expenses may be settled directly by the same and form part of the maximum allowable expenditure".
The declaration refers to a number of expenses that could not be quantified, such as the organisation of events and promotional material that third parties, including the political party, financed to support their campaigns.
The candidates declared they were unable to take an oath according to the form provided by the Electoral Commission, which obliges them to swear that except for the expenses set out in the form, no other expenses have been incurred for the campaign.
"To do so would be to take false oath which is against the law, my conscience and my beliefs. Instead, I am taking the oath in this present form, being fully aware of the consequences at law," they declared.
Magistrate Meli asked each candidate whether they were aware that the declaration was an admission that they were breaking the law, which subjected them to legal consequences. Both candidates acknowledged this.
The potential consequences include a fine, a summoning before a magistrate's court and the possibility that they will be denied the right to vote for a period of four years.
Mr Demicoli had already declared before the elections that his campaign expenditure exceeded the legal limit, and he disclosed his total campaign expenditure as €52,000. He said truth-based politics would help mitigate the cynicism people were feeling towards politicians.
"We need to ensure that everyone is observing the law; if the law is untenable, then we need to look at the law," Mr Demicoli said.
"If any of the MEPs has exceeded the expenditure limit, I certainly hope that he takes the oath in the way it was taken this morning. The onus of engaging in truth-based politics rests more heavily on an elected candidate," he added.
Dr Portelli said the law should be followed and it obliges everyone to tell the truth on how much was spent: "There is nothing better than the truth and I think the public is entitled to know what is being done by its representatives."
He declared his expenditure as €15,000 but said he could not quantify the additional expenditure by third parties, including the party's support.
He said he received approximately €5,000 in financial support and more in kind that he never even requested, but these had to be included in the total expenditure.
The five elected MEPs have still not publicly disclosed their expenses or acceded to The Sunday Times request to report their oath.
PN candidate Alex Perici Calascione last Friday also took an oath before a notary declaring his personal campaign expenditure to be €9,569.
His declaration did not include expenditure by third parties. He said according to his interpretation of the law, the expenditure by the party did not need to be included although he made a proviso that the sum declared had nothing to do with what the party spent.
Dr Perici Calascione and Dr Portelli agreed that the law needed revising to ensure a level playing field, although they believed expenditure should still be capped so that candidates who could not afford high-cost campaigns would not be at a disadvantage.
EP candidates have up to Friday to submit their declarations to the Electoral Commission, which has made it clear it will not be investigating. If a candidate exceeds the limit, the law states that he/she may not be allowed to serve if elected.
If not elected, the candidate is subject to a fine.
Two other EP candidates last week filed a judicial protest calling for an investigation into the expenses of those who contested the June 6 election.