‘Evidence Dalli knew what was going on’
Clearly a breach of ethics– Kessler
“Hard evidence” exists to prove that former European Commissioner John Dalli was aware that Silvio Zammit was asking for money in his name, the chief of the EU anti-fraud agency told a restricted closed-doors meeting with group coordinators of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee.
Although awareness was not a crime in itself, it was clearly a breach of ethics and misconduct, Giovanni Kessler said at the meeting in Strasbourg. According to a source, Mr Kessler gave more details of OLAF’s investigations following a tip-off by the Swedish tobacco company Swedish Match.
Admitting that OLAF had no proof of any criminal offences by Mr Dalli, Mr Kessler stressed it was evident that Mr Dalli had acted against the spirit of the Commissioners’ Code of Conduct and the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control “which Mr Dalli was well aware of”.
“According to this convention, public servants cannot have contacts with the tobacco industry unless they declare it. Mr Dalli met them several times and did not declare it. This is a breach of the convention,” Mr Kessler told MEPs.
Reiterating his declarations made the day after Mr Dalli’s resignation in Brussels, Mr Kessler told MEPs that “unambiguous pieces of evidence” gathered through all legal means permitted in the EU clearly showed that Mr Dalli was aware of what was going on and was well aware that his “old friend” (Silvio Zammit) was asking for money and setting up meetings on his behalf.
“Mr Dalli vehemently denied this with us but we have hard evidence showing this,” Mr Kessler stressed.
Saying Mr Dalli’s resignation was a political decision taken by Commission president José Manuel Barroso on the conclusions of the OLAF investigation, Mr Kessler said his office had no evidence that the former Maltese minister did something illegal or that he pocketed money.
“It is now up to the Maltese authorities to conduct their own investigations and see if Mr Dalli was involved directly.
“Since awareness is not a crime in itself we are not in a position to say that Mr Dalli did anything illegal. However, if it is found that he was behind all this, that is another issue,” Mr Kessler (below) said.
Mr Dalli was forced to resign last week by Mr Barroso following the conclusions of the OLAF investig-ation which found he was “aware of events” concerning a Maltese entrepreneur using his contacts with the former commissioner to try to gain financial advantage in exchange for influence over a possible future legislative proposal on snus – a smokeless tobacco product which is illegal in all EU countries except Sweden.
Mr Dalli has always denied he was aware and has accused the tobacco industry of a conspiracy against him.
According to Swedish Match, the snus company involved in this scandal, Mr Zammit – a former canvasser of Mr Dalli – asked for €60 million in exchange of changes to the EU’s Tobacco Directive.