Sunday

23rd Jul 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).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

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.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary