Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

EU anti-fraud office accused of cover-up in Dalli affair

  • Former commissioner for health John Dalli is said to have suffered a nervous breakdown following his forced resignation in last year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, has been accused of telling a key witness in the "Dalligate" affair to lie and of illegally listening in on people's phones.

The first allegation came out in a hearing by the European Parliament's budgetary control committee in Brussels on Thursday (21 March).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

French Green MEP Jose Bove dropped the bombshell.

He said he had met on Wednesday with two people, Johan Gabrielsson and Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson, from Swedish Match, a Stockholm-based firm which makes mouth tobacco or "snus."

Swedish Match confirmed to EUobserver the meeting with Bove took place.

The tobacco company was at the heart of the affair which last year cost EU health commissioner John Dalli his job.

Dalli lost his post after Olaf said that Dalli's associate, Maltese businessman Silvio Zammit, met with a Swedish Match lobbyist, Gayle Kimberley, in Malta in February 2012, and that Zammit offered her to fiddle an EU tobacco law in return for €60 million.

But according to Gabrielsson and Kindstrand-Isaksson, the February meeting never took place.

The pair told Bove that Kimberley met with Dalli himself in January.

But they said she made up the story about meeting Zammit in February and later came clean about her lie.

They also said they told Olaf about her retraction, but Olaf asked Swedish Match and Kimberley to stick to the fictional account for the sake of its investigation.

"Mr Gabrielsson said, and I've recorded it, that Olaf asked him not to change his story and stick to the idea that there had been two meetings," Bove told MEPs and press in Thursday's hearing.

"I think all this is far too serious. It shows a major dysfunction in the European institutions," he added.

Olaf denies any wrongdoing.

"All evidence was collected lawfully," its spokesman, Pavel Brokovec, told EUobserver in an email.

He noted that he cannot discuss the matter in any more detail because it would require the disclosure of confidential information.

In a second bombshell, Austrian left-wing MEP Herbert Bosch, told a separate parliament hearing that Olaf breaches people's fundamental rights and the terms of its mandate by recording private phone conversations in the course of its work.

"Olaf's legal basis to undertake these actions is not apparent from the text of the regulation [on Olaf] and no specific legal analysis has been made by Olaf prior to their execution [of the alleged wiretaps]," he noted.

Bosch is currently working on a report into Olaf's general conduct, due in April.

Olaf also denies the Bosch charge.

Its office told EUobserver it has never conducted wiretapping or illegally recorded telephone conversations.

Going back to Dalligate, it remains unclear why Kimberley lied and why she later came clean.

Asked why Kimberley had lied about the meeting, Swedish Match's spokesperson Rupini Bergstrom said "I have absolutely no idea. I only know that she had reported to us that she had two meetings".

On the alleged wiretaps, a parliament source further muddied the waters by telling this website that Bosch has in the past voiced interest in replacing Olaf head, Giovanni Kessler, in the Olaf top post.

Thursday's revelations sent a shockwave through parliament.

For her part, German centre-right deputy Ingeborg Grassle in a statement after the Bove hearing called for Kessler's resignation.

She also said that the presidents of parliament's political groups should fully disclose the contents of a report into Olaf's handling of Dalligate written by the Olaf supervisory board.

The report is currently sealed away in a safe in a small room in European Parliament.

Limited access is only given to the presidents, who must first sign a non-disclosure agreement. They are allowed just three hours to thumb through a paper, which sources say is extremely complex and long.

In a final twist showing the cozy relationships between lobbyists and EU officials, it came out that both Swedish Match's Gabrielsson and its freelance lobbyist, Kimberley, used to work for the commission's enlargement bureau before going into the private sector.

Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP

Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala won a trailblazing court case two decades ago for the right of EU citizens to receive 'partial access' to documents. Now she says it is "outrageous" the European Investment Bank is refusing to release Volkswagen documents.

Investigation

MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes

MEPs are using so-called 'friendship groups' to cater to foreign governments without oversight and little public scrutiny. Initially set up to promote cultural exchanges, some have become lobbying platforms to push state views from governments with poor human rights records.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  2. Spain makes bid for EU anti-pirate HQ
  3. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  4. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  5. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  6. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  7. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  8. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations