OLAF official quits over investigation procedure
Dalligate took on a fresh twist yesterday when news emerged of the resignation of a top official within OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office whose investigation toppled former EU Health Commissioner John Dalli.
According to OLAF’s website, Christiaan Timmermans held the post of chairman of the supervisory board until Monday, though it is still unclear whether that is when he resigned.
The ramifications of his resignation are also unclear, though the European press attributed his stepping down to a “breach of procedure” in his office’s handling of the Mr Dalli case.
Sources told The Times there was a dispute within the board where a number of members were unhappy at the fact that Mr Timmermans had processed the report without discussing it with the rest of the members.
However, the issue is not thought to be related directly to the actual content of the report.
Questions sent to OLAF’s supervisory board about the reported resignation were not answered by the time of going to print.
Attempts to contact a Maltese member on the board, Rita Schembri, were unsuccessful yesterday evening.
During a press conference in Brussels yesterday, Mr Dalli invited the journalists to investigate whether the supervisory board approved of the way OLAF had handled the case.
He said he had been told when in Strasbourg earlier this week that there was “trouble” within the supervisory board but had not confirmed this information until yesterday.
OLAF last week announced the findings of its investigation involving Mr Dalli, saying it had evidence that a Maltese businessman asked a Swedish tobacco company for a large sum of money to influence tobacco legislation. It also had “circumstantial evidence” that Mr Dalli was aware of this request and did nothing to stop it.
Yesterday’s developments came as the Wall Street Journal quoted sources close to the investigation saying that Mr Dalli had met with the Maltese lawyer representing Swedish Match in Malta on February 10, the day when Sliema deputy mayor Silvio Zammit allegedly asked for the bribe.
But speaking to The Times yesterday, Mr Dalli strenuously denied this, insisting that he did not meet anyone from the industry after January 6.
Previously he had acknowledged two meetings with Maltese representatives of Swedish Match, one in 2010 and the other on January 6 of this year with a young female Maltese lawyer.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Mr Dalli had met with the Sliema restaurateur at his private office in Malta. It claimed this meeting was held on the same day that Mr Zammit met with a female lawyer representing Swedish Match and allegedly asked her for a bribe in return for lifting the EU ban on snus.
Mr Dalli acknowledged a meeting did take place when asked about it by The Times. However, he said he and Mr Zammit had simply discussed the fact that the Nationalist Party had accepted the latter as a candidate in the local council elections.
Mr Dalli insisted that he had never “discussed any notion of money with anyone with regard to any aspect” of his work.