Sunday

5th Jul 2020

Malta's ex-commissioner loses court case against EU

  • John Dalli at the European Court of Justice (Photo: EUobserver)

Former European commissioner John Dalli on Thursday (6 June) lost a second court case against his ex-employer in Brussels - but said he will seek out legal loopholes in the ruling.

The Maltese politician was ousted as European commissioner for health back in 2012, following a tobacco-related scandal that also exposed dubious investigations carried out by the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

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On Thursday the general Court of the European Union in Luxembourg dismissed Dalli's case, and his wider efforts to seek €1m in damages allegedly suffered as a result of the termination of his office in 2012.

"Mr Dalli has not shown the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of Olaf or the Commission," said the court in a statement.

But Dalli on Thursday remain unconvinced. In an email sent to this website, he said that there is ample evidence Olaf had acted illegally.

He said an investigating judge in Belgium had this week agreed to deepen the probe into the affair, and that his lawyer has since been given a copy of an 800-page file that spans an "additional investigation."

"This is apart from the 5,000-page file of the Belgian police of which my lawyer had also been given a copy," said Dalli.

In a complex saga, Olaf's former secretary-general Giovanni Kessler had his immunity lifted, over allegations he had illegally wiretapped a key witness in the Dalli case. Kessler has since left Olaf and returned to Italy.

Kessler's conduct during the investigation had riled the European Parliament, with leading MEPs demanding accountability in a case that has left a long shadow over 'Big Tobacco''s lobbying influence within the European Commission.

Dalli's contention also covers the Olaf staff that were involved in the case.

"The investigating judges tried for three years to interrogate Olaf staff but the commission refused to give its permission," he said.

The scandal is rooted in wider attempts by the tobacco manufacturer Swedish Match to get a sales ban on snus, a mouth tobacco, lifted throughout the European Union. Currently, the product can only be sold in Sweden.

Their efforts targeted Dalli, who at the time was revising EU-wide rules on tobacco as EU commissioner for health.

Swedish Match failed in this attempt - and then reported that a Dalli associate, who ran a pizzeria in Malta, had demanded a €60m bribe to help them get the ban lifted.

A spokesperson from the European Commission on Thursday declined to comment on the lifting of Kessler's immunity, instead telling reporters that the "judgement confirms the commission's position that Olaf and the commission have not committed any illegality as regards Mr Dalli."

Investigation

Part I: From Peppi’s to Barroso’s

Part I of VIII: EUobserver takes a closer look at the Barroso commission's biggest scandal - tobacco lobbying and John Dalli - in events some say will haunt the EU "for the next 10 years".

EU court dismisses Dalli case

A former EU health commissioner, accused of soliciting bribes from a tobacco firm, lost his case against the European Commission for unlawful dismissal.

Dalli lawyers say Barroso trampled his rights

Dalli's lawyers claimed Barroso bullied him out of his job instead of following proper procedure in the second and final day of an EU Court hearing in his case.

Investigation

Part V: Dalli’s big tobacco theory

John Dalli claims that his tough stand against tobacco as EU health commissioner led the industry to pull levers inside the European Commission to get him ousted from office.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.

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