Dalligate, the Epilogue

EPA

OLAF scores a triumph in Malta court


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Giovanni Kessler, the Director General of OLAF, the anti fraud service of the European Union, and his team wrote the epilogue of the Dalligate in the Maltese Court, last week.

Three years after it began, OLAF investigators were called to testify in the Maltese Court that is currently conducting the case of Malta vs Silvio Zammit.

Zammit is the Maltese pizzeria owner and a trusted constituent of former Commissioner Dalli, who asked for bribes using the privileged position stemming from his personal relation with the Commissioner and he asked for a small gift, just sixty million Euro (€60,000,0000).

For the first time, Kessler and his team told the Court what their investigation revealed and connected all the facts together. This was an excellent opportunity for present journalists to tweet the entire process, piece by piece.

What was unveiled in the Court was that Zammit had brokered several meetings between Dalli and tobacco lobbyists, circumventing the requirements of the Brussels norms. The meetings were private and undeclared to the Commissions’ record keeping system, far away from curious eyes, in Gozo or in Malta.

Specifically, Zammit, asked for two “gifts,” from Swedish Match and ESTOC. What is interesting that in any occasion he was asking for a “gift” (10 February and 29 March 2012) he had either just met or had been in contact with Dalli. Once he even interrupted a call to ESTOC, called Dalli, and called ESTOC back with his proposals. The call was recorded by ESTOC and played-back to the Court.

In this call, Zammit said that he was offering a meeting between “my boss and your boss anywhere in the world”, and he added that the “price he’s asking” was corresponding to the occasion and explained that for a person of such a political stature, to propose to lifting the ban on snus tobacco was a great risk, which comes at a cost.

Interestingly enough, Zammit asked for the money to be delivered after the meeting, which means that the meeting was guaranteed. Zammit added that the rest of the “gift,” that is fifty million Euro would be paid upon tabling the proposal for lifting the ban on snus tobacco. The same proposal was addressed twice, to Swedish Match first, then to ESTOC.

The conclusion for those listening to the tape is that Zammit was sure of what he was proposing and of being able to secure Dalli’s friendly ear for such a meeting and the rest.

From OLAF testimonies, it was revealed that after the investigation on the involvement of Dalli in the tobacco products directive was closed, OLAF opened a second investigation, the Dalli II case, related to a bank account in Bahamas handled by John Dalli on the behalf of a …charity organization and some other information which only the investigators know. It is most interesting that during the Dalli II investigation, OLAF has reportedly came across with new information on the snus case.

Two new witnesses from the Cabinet of the former Commissioner testified that Dalli inquired about lifting the ban on snus in January and February 2012. This is new evidence of relevance, since Dalli had always maintained that the last time he took an interest in the snus issue was at the meeting on January 6, 2012 with Zammit and a lobbyist. He stated to OLAF that after that, the issue was closed for him. Seemingly it was not, as Zammit was still seeking for “gifts” and the Commissioner was still interested in the snus case.

In the Maltese Court, OLAF presented the Dalli case in public for the first time, showing that the investigation was very clear, to the point. The cross-examination of OLAF by the lawers of Zammit was brief and irrelevant.

At this point New Europe has to clarify that in extensively covering the Dalli case in the past, had no idea of the parallel games of Silvio Zammit and was not aware of all such details.

Our interventions stemmed from the fact that the OLAF report did not accuse directly Dalli byt reffered only to “circumstantial evidences” and verified that Dalli had not changed the Directive and did not take any bribe.

All our criticism was to the fact that the then President of the Commission, Jose Barroso had fired him directly, without recalling Article 17 of the Treaty which legitimizes the president to ask with no explanations or excuses the resignation of any Commissioner.

Indeed, the next day New Europe suggested to John Dalli that he ask the president if he was asking his resignation on the grounds of Article17, in which case he would be sending immediately (the resignation).

The president refused the recourse of Article 17 obviously because he was considering the resignation not a political matter but a matter of morality and for this reason Jose Barroso was taken to the European Court of Justice.

Who advised the President to ignore Article 17 we cannot say. What we can add for the record, however, is that on the evening of 23, December 2014, in a brief encounter in the Brussels airport between our Editor and Jose Barroso, in discussing the Dalli case the former president, simply said, “I did it to protect the honour of my Commission.”

Indeed, with the new facts unveiled in the Maltese Court, it is obvious that Jose Barroso whom we have strongly criticized, acted on moral grounds, ignoring the rules. Obviously he knew or suspected the truth, which we did not, and did not want to wash any moral doubts on the dismissed Commissioner.

 

 

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