Sunday

19th Aug 2018

Court testimony implicates former EU health chief

  • Dalli was at the time revising EU-wide rules on tobacco and has accused the tobacco industry of masterminding his dismissal (Photo: lanier67)

The head of the EU’s anti-fraud office Olaf, Giovanni Kessler, arrived in court in Malta on Tuesday (17 March) as a witness in a tobacco scandal that saw a former EU commissioner forced out of office.

Kessler presented the court with new testimony in a case that dates back to 2012 when Malta’s then EU commissioner for health, John Dalli, was ousted over an alleged attempt to lift a sale ban on mouth-tobacco snus in exchange for €60 million.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The sale of snus is restricted to Sweden but has an estimated EU-wide market value of some €500 million.

Dalli, who has always maintained his innocence in the affair, was at the time revising the EU-wide rules on tobacco and has accused the tobacco industry of masterminding his dismissal.

He left his post in October 2012 after a tense exchange with the European Commission president of the time, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Olaf was tipped off to possible wrongdoing in early 2012 and launched an investigation that later implicated Dalli, an EU-official-turned-tobacco-lobbyist Gayle Kimberly, and Maltese businessman and restaurant owner Silvio Zammit.

Only Zammit has so far been charged.

The latest twist in the on-going saga is new testimony from two former officials in Dalli’s cabinet.

According to Malta Today, Kessler told the jury that Dalli had inquired about lifting the snus ban during internal meetings with his staff.

“Two commission officials [Joanna Darmanin and Paula Duarte] told us that Dalli, in a formal meeting of the cabinet, tried to push for lifting the ban on snus, which issue at that time was not controversial,” Kessler told the court.

He added that “the two witnesses, Joanna Darmanin - at the time chef de cabinet of John Dalli - and Ms [Paula] Duarte gave two interviews, records of which I don’t have with me but can be provided, said that Dalli, on two occasions on 24 January 2012 and 28 February 2012, pushed for the lifting of the ban, or he tried to see what was necessary to do so.”

Olaf told this website it was unable to immediately confirm the statements reported by the paper because the hearing was still ongoing.

But Dalli soon afterwards accused Kessler of perjury for having made the accusation.

The former commissioner denied having proposed lifting the snus ban and says Kessler fabricated the Darmnanin and Duarte testimonies.

Instead, Dalli says that on 28 February he had signed off an impact assessment with his staff and DG Sanco, the commission branch that deals with health-related policy.

That impact assessment included a ban on the sale of snus, he notes.

"This is documented and can be verified. This is perjury and I expect the police to take action," he said in a statement.

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 Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Women and children's role in Islamic State underestimated

Western Europe is estimated to have 5,904 nationals affiliated with the Islamic State inside Iraq and Syria. Of those, around 1,765 have returned of which 47 percent are minors and eight percent are women, says a new report.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us