OLAF, the EU anti fraud agency, may reopen its case against former Commissioner John Dalli after it learnt that he travelled to the Bahamas last summer as part of a quest to move millions of dollars, the International Herald Tribune reports today.
It said when he was asked about the previously undisclosed trip on July 7-8 to a Caribbean island known for its secretive banks and sun-swept beaches, Mr Dalli said on the telephone that he had gone to meet unidentified friends. He said he had returned at least once in the summer as part of efforts to arrange financing for a philanthropic project.
Barry Connon, a Bahamas resident who rented Mr Dalli’s family a villa on the island, said he recalled being told by Mr Dalli that he planned to transfer ‘large amounts’ of money for an unspecified venture, the newspaper said.
Asked about sums of up to $100 million, Mr Dalli said the money was not for him, that he was acting on behalf of other people who wanted to set up a ‘trust’ and that the project was ‘very personal’ and ‘very confidential'. Its purposes, he added, was to help people in Africa.
There was nothing out of this world about the Bahamas visit, Mr Dalli said.
The Herald said he declined to detail the Africa project, but said that while ‘it has not been set up yet’ the ‘process is still going on’. He specified later that he did not have any accounts in the Bahamas.
On a follow-up trip to the Bahamas later in the summer, Mr Dalli stayed in a four-bedroom villa rented at $8,000 a month.
A copy of the lease seen by The New York Times showed that the villa, Seaview Beach, was rented to Claire Gauci Borda, one of Mr Dalli’s daughters, on July 14, 2012.
The newspaper said that Mr Dalli, according to one commission official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, concealed his July trip to the Bahamas by phoning officials to say that he intended to spend the weekend in Malta to see his family.
OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud commission which brought about Mr Dalli’s departure from the European Commission in an investigation on alleged trading in influence regarding the Tobacco Directive, said it did not know of the trip and that it would look into the matter ‘suggesting it could reopen its investigation’.
“As is usual practice, OLAF will duly consider any relevant new evidence, within its remit of competence,” the office said in a statement sent by e-mail to the newspaper.
It said that even so, Mr Dalli’s philanthropic mission does echo the description by Mr Connor, the Bahamas landlord of some of the family’s activities and their guests, some apparently from church groups in the United States.
“Normally you get some people coming here with some sort of scheme, and they’ve got investors and they’re all going to do this and do that,” Mr Connor said in a telephone interview. “No” he said, “they just had money coming and they were going to invest it into charities.”
“It was not like they were looking to make money - they were looking to spend money, which is the reverse” of what people normally are seeking when they arrive in the Bahamas, he said.