OLAF regrets ‘interested parties’ gave out evidence
OLAF, the European Union’s anti-fraud office, yesterday said it regretted that pieces of evidence were leaked to the press “by interested parties” in the case of John Dalli’s resignation.
OLAF stressed that it could not comment on the details of the investigation that led Mr Dalli to quit as European Commissioner because the matter was now under consideration by the judi-cial authorities.
Among press reports on the investigation were an e-mail in which a tobacco lobbyist asks businessman Silvio Zammit for an informal meeting with Mr Dalli against payment and a report on a Swedish newspaper yesterday saying that Mr Zammit asked for €60 million.
Mr Dalli has argued that the e-mail mentioned above indicated that the alleged bribery was proposed by the tobacco producers, not Mr Zammit, as OLAF was saying.
OLAF clarified it had “no conclusive evidence” of the “direct participation” of Mr Dalli in alleged bribe requests by a Maltese businessman.
The agency did not name the businessman, even though he has been identified by Mr Dalli himself as Mr Zammit, who this week resigned from his position as Sliema’s deputy mayor.
OLAF stressed that its investigation had found “evidence” of bribery by a businessman who had organised meetings between Mr Dalli and representatives and lobbyists of producers of snus, a smokeless tobacco only sold in Sweden.
“(He) repeatedly requested a considerable sum of money from the snus industry in exchange for the adoption of a proposal for the lifting of the ban on snus, trading on the name of the commissioner,” OLAF said.
“This request was declined by the snus industry and no payment or financial transactions have taken place,” it added.
It clarified that its investigation found no conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli in the matter. The case has now been referred to the competent Maltese judicial authorities for their consideration of the criminal aspects of the actions of the “persons” involved. OLAF’s director general, Giovanni Kessler, told a press briefing in Brussels that there were “a number of unambiguous circumstantial pieces of evidence gathered in the course of the investigation, indicating that Mr Dalli was aware of (Mr Zammit’s) activities.
“These pieces of evidence also indicate that Mr Dalli was aware that the Maltese businessman was using the commissioner’s name and position to gain financial advantages.
“OLAF found that Commissioner Dalli had taken no action to prevent or dissociate himself from the facts or to report the circumstances.”
In line with regulation 1073/99, OLAF said it referred the case to the president of the European Commission for his consideration in light of the provisions laid down by the commissioners’ code of conduct.
The agency stressed that it had respected all the rights of those concerned by the investigation, including those ensuring that they must be informed and enabled to express their views on all the facts concerning them.
“Prior to the adoption of the final report, a comprehensive review of the investigation process was conducted to ensure compliance with all legal requirements including the rights and procedural guarantees of the persons concerned.”
In fact, OLAF noted, it interviewed Mr Dalli twice when the allegations and the facts concerning him were communicated to him. He was also given the opportunity to comment on them, it said.
“Commissioner Dalli was informed and availed of his right to be assisted by a person of his choice during the interview,” OLAF said.