An Italian journalist who was detained for 11 months while accused of taking part in a £20billion fraud of which he was ultimately acquitted has been told that he cannot sue the bank that made the allegations against him.
The judgment against Enrico Verga, who had sought damages for the loss of his job and potential earnings from other business endeavours while in prison, was made public by the Royal Court for the first time this week.
The business reporter, who is also a freelance interpreter, was one of three Italians to be acquitted of conspiracy to defraud Nedbank in late 2015.
They were arrested in February of that year after allegedly turning up at the St. Helier-based finance firm with reportedly false documents signed by the Queen and Barack Obama, which they then used in an attempt to gain £20billion.
However, a jury did not find the trio guilty following a trial in Jersey’s Royal Court, and they finally walked free after nearly one year behind bars.
Pictured: Mr Verga and two other Italians were found not guilty of trying to defraud Nedbank.
But it was not the end of Mr Verga’s contact with the Royal Court.
Having lost his job while in prison, which also left him unable to advance any commercial projects, Mr Verga last year attempted to bring legal proceedings against the bank and three other people.
He reasoned that he was owed compensation by them for reports made to the Police, which ultimately led to his arrest, time spent in custody and trial.
The matter came before the Royal Court last month, with the Master of the Court, Matthew John Thompson, agreeing with the defendants that Mr Verga’s claim was out of time, having come some three years after his acquittal.
He explained that while Mr Verga had initiated the process in June 2018, despite warnings, his papers were only completed in December 2018.
Pictured: Advocate Hiren Mistry was Mr Verga's legal representative.
“Despite having been considering issuing proceedings for some months and despite the express warning, the plaintiff did not engage legal representation and left matters too late to enable proceedings to be served within time. The difficulty the plaintiff finds himself in is therefore of his own making because he left matters too late and in my judgment is not one where the court would suspend prescription,” the Master wrote in his judgment.
Even if this had not been the case, the Master further remarked that Mr Verga’s case would have been likely to be struck out.
Advocate Lindop, representing the defendants, said that the law allowed for anyone providing information about an alleged crime to police to be immune from defamation or criminal proceedings.
He admitted that this was not the case if there was “malicious” intent, but noted that Mr Verga had not suggested this was the case.
Pictured: The Master of the Royal Court would not allow more time to amend the legal proceedings brought by Mr Verga.
The Master added that, in any case, it was “difficult to see how any prosecution could be malicious” because the charges against Mr Verga did not hinge solely on information provided by the bank and the three other defendants, but were also “based on the independent discretion and judgment of both the States of Jersey Police and the Attorney General”.
Mr Verga’s legal representative, Advocate Hiren Mistry, did not contend otherwise.
Advocate Mistry asked the court for more time to amend the legal proceedings brought by Mr Verga, but the Master of the Royal Court did not agree.
“…Any amended facts would be new matters which would be out of time in any event. There is no point therefore in allowing leave to amend in respect of allegations that are bound to be themselves out of time,” he said.
Concluding his judgment, the Master commented: “ …If the plaintiff’s claim is within time, contrary to the view I have reached, the plaintiff’s claim is in any event struck out.”
(Lead Picture: Enrico Verga's Facebook profile)
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