Swedish company: Dalli canvasser wanted €60m
Sliema businessman Silvio Zammit allegedly asked for €60 million from a Swedish company to use his contacts with former European Commissioner John Dalli to arrange for an EU ban on snus tobacco to be lifted.
Mr Zammit would not comment on the allegation made yesterday by Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesman for snus company Swedish Match.
Mr Zammit, owner of Peppi’s restaurant in Sliema and a circus promoter, is at the centre of an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, which caused Mr Dalli to resign earlier this week after a report concluded that the former Health Commissioner “was aware of events”.
Mr Dalli has forcefully denied this claim.
A canvasser of Mr Dalli on the 10th district, where the former Commissioner contested in the last election, Mr Zammit was accused of trading in influence.
OLAF head Giovanni Kessler said Mr Zammit had asked the company for “a substantial” sum of money to influence a review of EU tobacco legislation that was being undertaken by Mr Dalli.
Dr Kessler said the former commissioner was aware of Mr Zammit’s actions and did nothing to “prevent, stop or report” his actions.
Mr Zammit has denied any wrongdoing, saying he only acted as a lobbyist, which is normal practice in the EU. According to OLAF, what started out as a nor-mal lobbying relationship ended up being contaminated.
Mr Hildingsson yesterday told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that Mr Zammit had asked his company for €10 million “right-away” and €50 million after the law would have been changed.
The company spokesman did not specify when the offer was made but, in earlier statements, Swedish Match said it had immediately reported the matter to the European Commission. The report was filed in May.
Snus, a smokeless oral form of tobacco, cannot be sold in the EU, except Sweden, which obtained a dispensation when it joined the bloc in 1995.
Sweden and snus producers have long lobbied for the sales ban in the EU to be lifted, which would open up a potential market of €300 million.
Mr Dalli was due to present a review of EU tobacco legislation next week after a two-year consultation process. Snus producers wanted the review to include the lifting of the ban, something that was discarded by Mr Dalli.
Mr Dalli has refuted OLAF’s conclusions denying any knowledge of the alleged criminal activity undertaken by Mr Zammit.
However, he confirmed that Mr Zammit did arrange two meetings with snus lobbyists, one in August 2010 and another with a Maltese lawyer in January this year.