Updated - Dalli: This was a plan of entrapment, company denial
John Dalli, the former EU Health Commissioner, has provided some details of two meetings mentioned yesterday by Giovanni Kessler, the director general of the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf).
He also claimed that what was happening showed a plan of entrapment against him - a claim which was promptly denied by Swedish Match, the company which raised the whole issue with the European Commission.
Mr Dalli said he attempted to send this reply via e-mail yesterday, but was unsuccessful. In the e-mail, he says he met a Snus lobbyist in 2010 and an unnamed Maltese lawyer in 2012. He says these were the meetings Mr Kessler referred to as the one centring around his investigation. He also implies that the meetings were organised by businessman Silvio Zammit.
However, yesterday morning, Mr Dalli said Mr Zammit "never asked me for any meeting with these people". He was referring to Snus lobbyists, who he claims attempted to "bribe" Mr Zammit in March by asking him how much he would charge to set up an informal meeting.
In today's reply he qualifies his statement, saying it was the offer made in March that was "never communicated" to him.
The e-mail he was referring to was sent by the European Smokeless Tobacco Council, which is chaired by the spokesman of Swedish Match, the company that reported Mr Dalli to the European Commission in May.
Mr Dalli also claims that the "Snus people" made another request by phone on July 3, after filing their complaint. He does not say how he got to know about this phone call or the e-mail that was addressed to Mr Zammit.
Mr Dalli also says there are other issues which will brought up at the appropriate time that show "a systematic plan of entrapment."
This is Mr Dalli's explanation, in his own words:
"It is important that we put things in perspective.
The "dealings" between the Snus people and the Maltese entrepreneur seem to have started in March of this year, after I had finalised my policy on the tobacco directive with SANCO, the services responsible for health and consumers which was in February this year.
The meetings that Kessler referred to were held one in August 2010 with a lobbyist who simply handed me some reports from Price Waterhouse about tobacco, and one on 6th January 2012 with a Maltese lawyer who wanted to know the Commission position on SNUS – which I explained. If you watched the press conference given at the commission at midday today, you could hear the journalists say that this is common practice with most commissioners.
During that time I was in listning mode on this issue, analysing all information and preparing my position.
The proof that these meetings did not influence the decisions taken by myself and SANCO is the email which was published this morning (yesterday) by Malta Today, sent by the SNUS organisation on the 16th March which stated that they were hearing disturbing rumours and were offering a bribe to have a meeting organised with me. This offer was never communicated to me.
I am also informed that the SNUS people again made the same request by phone around the 3rd of July, when they had already made their complaint (25th May) and when OLAF had already started its investigations. It is obvious that they did not succeed to get at me after many attempts.
I have repeatedly stated to OLAF that I did not discuss SNUS with the Maltese Entrepreneur after the 6th of January.
The Director General of OLAF kept insisting on his conclusions based on circumstantial evidence that I was aware of the dealings that were going on. This is simply conjecture on his part which will not stand the test of serious study. I have categorically declared several times that I was not aware of these goings on.
As to my the email that was published, it came into my hands weeks after I had an interview with OLAF in which THEY informed me of what was going on. It is also interesting to note that the Director General of OLAF stated that he did not know about this email. I ask, what due diligence did he perform on the SNUS organisation who made the complaint?
It is not the independent fact of this email, there are other issues which will be brought up at the appropriate time that show a systematic plan of entrapment."
SWEDISH MATCH DENIES ENTRAPMENT
Swedish MatCh in a statement denied the claims of entrapment and said that all it had done was report to the European Authorities an offer which should not have been made to it.
It said that according to its code of conduct it was bound to report anything which could expose it to an illegality.