Dalli interrogated at police headquarters

Dalli held for 24 hours

John Dalli spent nearly 34 hours at the police headquarters as he was interrogated over what role he may have played in an ex-canvasser’s alleged attempt at bribery, which led to the former European Commissioner’s fall from grace last month.

Mr Dalli was summoned to HQ in Floriana at 9am on Monday and spent the night there, leaving at about 6.30pm yesterday

Mr Dalli was summoned to HQ in Floriana at 9am on Monday and spent the night there, leaving only at about 6.30pm yesterday.

Sources said a confrontation was set up with the man at the centre of the scandal, his former canvasser and Sliema deputy mayor Silvio Zammit.

The interrogation was led by the Police Commissioner John Rizzo who was assisted by Assistant Commissioner Michael Cassar, head of the Economic Crimes Unit, and Inspector Angelo Gafa.

Mr Zammit arrived at the headquarters at around 3pm and left shortly before Mr Dalli, but sources said he had already been interrogated earlier this month in connection with the case.

The timing of the interrogation could not have been more unfortunate for Mr Dalli, who was facing investigators’ questions just as his designated successor, Tonio Borg, was being subjected to his own grilling at the European Parliament in a process expected to lead to his appointment to the post.

Attempts to contact Mr Dalli yesterday proved unsuccessful while Mr Zammit maintained the no-comment stance he has taken ever since he issued a statement denying any wrongdoing when the case was revealed through a European Commission statement on October 16.

An investigation conducted by the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF had concluded that Mr Zammit asked the tobacco company Swedish Match for a bribe in return for Mr Dalli lifting the EU-wide ban on snus – a smokeless form of tobacco which can only be sold in Sweden under current rules.

OLAF said it did not have any evidence of Mr Dalli being behind this initiative but added that there was “unambiguous circumstantial evidence” showing that he knew the request for a bribe had been made.

The report was eventually passed on to the Attorney General, who in turn recommended late last month that the police initiate an investigation.

The police investigation is also looking into the role of the lawyer who represented Swedish Match in Malta, Gayle Kimberley, police sources said.

The probe has even reached the offices of the gaming authority, where the computers belonging to Dr Kimberley and a colleague who may have introduced her to Mr Zammit were examined.

According to Swedish Match, which filed the complaint that triggered the OLAF probe, Mr Zammit first made the bribe request to Dr Kimberley during a meeting at his restaurant, Peppi’s, in Sliema.

Mr Dalli was said to have attended the first part of the meeting but then left, which is the point when the Swedish company says the bribe request was made.

How Dr Kimberley came into contact with Mr Zammit, however, remains unexplained.

The snus manufacturer had told The Sunday Times it never understood who had invited Mr Zammit to the meetings, raising questions about his middleman role.

Both Mr Dalli and Mr Zammit have vehemently denied all allegations while Dr Kimberley was never available for comment.

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