Monday

1st May 2017

Olaf leak: no clear evidence against Dalli

  • Dalli - not proven guilty, but not quite exonerated either (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU anti-fraud office Olaf had no hard evidence that former health commissioner John Dalli tried to solicit a bribe from a tobacco firm.

The information comes from its confidential report into the Dalli case, part of which was leaked on Sunday (28 April) by the MaltaToday news agency.

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.

In his cover letter to the paper, dated 17 October, Olaf chief Giovanni Kessler said: "There is no conclusive evidence of the direct participation of commissioner John Dalli either as instigator or as mastermind of the operation of requesting money in exchange for the promised political services."

Dalli lost his post last year over allegations he used a middleman to ask tobacco firm Swedish Match for millions of euros to fiddle EU legislation.

Sale of Swedish Match's mouth tobacco, snus, is banned in every member state except Sweden.

Dalli's task was - his accusers claim - to lift the ban in exchange for money.

The deal was allegedly brokered by Silvio Zammit (a Maltese local politician and restaurant owner with close ties to Dalli) and Gayle Kimberley (a Malta-based consultant hired by Swedish Match) at a meeting in February 2012.

Dalli says he had nothing to do with Zammit's scheme.

While the Olaf report admits there is no incriminating evidence, it still makes Dalli look bad.

It says he attempted to muddle evidence and was most likely aware of Zammit's plan.

Dalli met Zammit in February just three days before Zammit allegedly asked Kimberley for the money on Dalli's behalf.

Dalli initially denied his Zammit meeting took place, but changed his story later on.

Olaf also says Dalli met directly with tobacco lobbyists who "have a personal interest in a matter within his portfolio" in breach of the EU commissioners' code of conduct.

He first met with Zammit and with the European smokeless tobacco council (Estoc) in August 2010.

He met again with Zammit and Kimberley in January 2012.

When questioned by Olaf on what went on at the various events, Dalli tried to hide "content relevant to the issue at stake."

The Olaf report says "the inconsistency of commissioner John Dalli's statements together with the findings of this investigation relating to him, could be seen as a serious breach of duty to behave in keeping with the dignity and the duties of his office."

It adds: "there are a number of unambiguous and converging circumstantial items of evidence gathered in the course of the investigation, indicating that ... Dalli was actually aware of both the machinations of Silvio Zammit and the fact that the latter was using his name and position to gain financial advantages."

The report contradicts some recent statements made by euro-deputies.

French Green MEP Jose Bove in March this year met with Swedish Match employees Johan Gabrielsson and Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson.

He said they told him the February 2012 meeting where Zammit allegedly asked Kimberley for the bribe never took place.

They also told Bove that Olaf instructed Kimberley to lie about it in order to build its case.

Olaf denies this.

Its leaked report faithfully records that Kimberley made "contradictory" statements about her relations with Zammit and Gabrielsson.

Meanwhile, the Olaf paper sheds light on the cozy ties between EU officials and the tobacco lobby.

Kimberley herself is a former EU official.

The former head of the commission's legal service, Michel Petite - whose new employer, law firm Clifford Chance, works for tobacco giant Philip Morris - also played a prominent role in the affair.

The Olaf report says Petite met with his former colleague - the commission's top civil servant, Catherine Day - to pass on Swedish Match's bribery allegations, prompting the Olaf probe.

The report quotes another Swedish Match employee, Frederik Peyron, as saying: "We started planning for how to report this matter to the relevant EU authorities and contacted Michel Petite at Clifford Chance to receive advice. At our request he contacted Catherine Day, and we submitted a written report on the matter."

For German conservative MEP Ingeborg Graessle, the leaked report shows Olaf itself in a bad light.

"Despite missing some important pages, the document confirms the impression of a biased and partly amateurish investigation by Olaf," she said on Monday.

"The part of the report now accessible is full of speculation, assertions and obviously uncritical repetition of witness accounts," she added.

The Brussels-based pro-transparency NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, agreed with her.

"It looks as if Olaf has selectively compiled arguments to support that Dalli had behaved inappropriately, without considering the credibility of the witnesses," it said also on Monday.

It described the Petite-Day relationship as "shocking."

EU anti-fraud chief defends his name

Olaf has been unjustly accused of wrongdoing over the Dalli affair, its chief, Giovanni Kessler, has said amid calls for his resignation.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  2. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  3. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  4. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  6. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  7. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  10. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  11. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  12. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved