Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Olaf leak questions legal basis of Dalli probe

  • Former EU health commissioner Dalli lost his job over bribery allegations (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

A leaked report on the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf) questions the legal basis of the investigation that led to former Maltese health commissioner John Dalli losing his job.

"It clearly describes in 22 or 23 pages what kind of mistakes and illegal actions were undertaken by Olaf,” Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes told this website on Tuesday (7 May).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Staes, who is in Malta along with French Green MEP Jose Bove, handed a copy of the leaked report to the office of Malta’s Prime Minister.

"I think it ruins the Olaf investigation, it shows clearly that the fundamental rights of the accused have not been guaranteed, that the telephone records were not gathered on the right legal basis,” said Staes.

The report was written by a member of a supervisory committee, composed of five independent outside experts, tasked to oversee that Olaf conducts its investigations appropriately.

To maintain its independence, Olaf is banned from taking or seeking instruction from any government, institution, body or agency in the performance of its duties.

But the speed at which the Dalli investigation was launched and the close proximity of people inside the commission to the file has led to suggestions that Olaf’s independence from the European Commission may have been compromised.

“The supervisory committee would like to point out that the need for a measured assessment was important for the safeguarding and consolidating of Olaf’s independence vis-a-vis the European Commission when this latter is the origin of the referral,” the report states.

The commission’s legal services had recommended launching the investigation after its secretary general, Catherine Day, received bribery allegations against Dalli made by tobacco firm Swedish Match.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso urged Olaf to give the probe top priority, even though Olaf had initially instructed Day not to inform him.

An investigative selection and review unit in Olaf was given less than 24 hours to properly assess the allegations after receiving a letter from the commission on the case on 24 May 2012.

The unit delivered a positive verdict a day later and said “the information provided was sufficient to open an investigation.”

On 25 May, the head of Olaf Gionanni Kessler hand-delivered the opinion to launch the investigation to Day.

Olaf is required to verify the credibility of accusations before launching an investigation.

But the leaked report, in its analysis, says the supervisory committee had not “found any trace of any other check made or any other additional information gathered by Olaf with regard to the allegations and their credibility.”

Olaf had only verified the existence of persons and companies in the complaint.

After four months of inquiry, Kessler handed the final report over to Barroso on 15 October, who called in Dalli for a crunch meeting one day later (Barroso says Dalli quit, but Dalli says he got the sack).

The supervisory committee was also unable to assess the quality of Olaf’s case before the final report was sent off to the Maltese authorities, which launched a criminal case.

The committee is supposed to have at least five days to scrutinise Olaf’s work.

Staes says Barroso should have asked Kessler on 15 October if Olaf had first consulted the supervisory committee to make sure procedures and fundamental rights were properly followed.

Had the supervisory committee been consulted then “Dalli would never have been asked to resign in the way it happened on 16 October,” said Staes.

Both Staes and Bove have been looking into how Olaf operated.

Staes says they have information on a number of people inside the commission that have themselves met with tobacco industry lobbyists in contravention of the same rules that saw Dalli go.

“We do know that people surrounding Barroso, his cabinet, of the legal service, of the secretary general of the commission, that they also met people in the tobacco lobby,” he said.

“Why can you blame a commissioner and force him to resign on the one hand and not take actions on others who do the same?” he added.

Olaf leak: no clear evidence against Dalli

A leaked Olaf report says there is no evidence ex-commissioner John Dalli was corrupt. It also exposes intimate ties between tobacco lobbyists and top EU officials.

Analysis

From Bratislava to Rome: Little more than a show of unity

The so-called Bratislava process of reflection for the EU came to an end on Saturday, but there were few tangible results that citizens could take away from the soul-searching. Despite that, unity among the EU-27 has been maintained.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Opinion

Birthday wishes to the European Union

With the EU soon to celebrate its 60th birthday, there are still lingering questions about the bloc's future and whether there can be a change in fortune.

News in Brief

  1. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  2. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  3. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  4. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  5. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  6. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  7. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks
  8. Nato moves summit forward so US can attend

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  2. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  3. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  4. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  5. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  7. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  8. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  9. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  11. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  12. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste