The European Union’s anti fraud unit, OLAF is coming under increasing pressure after a tobacco lobbyist was recorded by an MEP, claiming that Swedish Match were lied to by the chief witness in the Dalli affair, known as Dalligate, and that OLAF had asked Swedish Match not to change the version of events to include the new dramatic revelation.
In response OLAF is "considering legal action" against its accusers. The main allegation has been made by Swedish Match, who originally reported the a bribery attempt to the European Commission, which led to the dismissal of the Health Commissioner. The Swedish tobacco company is now claiming they were lied to by the person they engaged and that OLAF wanted them to stick to their allegations.
Last week, the centre right EPP Group Spokeswoman in the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament, Inge Gräßle MEP called on OLAF Director General Giovanni Kessler to resign.
The German deputy spoke to New Europe, saying, “At the start, we all believed in the OLAF investigation as there was a ‘second meeting’ and an allegation of corruption. Because of this nobody wanted to protect a corrupt person, nobody wanted to defend somebody who did wrong.”
Gräßle says that “Mr Kessler (the OLAF head) has a lot to explain, for me it's obvious that the main reason was to maintain, in front of the public and in front of the European Parliament, the initial version that the corruption took place.”
She seemed to be apologetic towards the former Health Commissioner, who was given just 45 minutes to depart from the Commission HQ on the strength of the OLAF report, which is being kept under wraps, even the accused has not seen a copy of the report, which is now being questioned.
“There should have been more solidarity with Dalli but everybody was very prudent,” she said.
She defended her role and explained how her perspective changed, “As rapporteur, I care a lot how the anti-fraud office is working, and I always defended the office because their position is not an easy one.”
She continued, “Olaf is a very fragile body and I think it does not support robust investigations. ''
It was the OLAF chief that caused doubts about the organization. ''We started having some doubts when the Director General of OLAF could not give us a reason about what was the real allegation, he put forward several points and then he corrected himself all the time,'' she explained.
Her solution is more transparency, “'now we should put everything on the table about this case because at the moment the secrecy hides plenty of infringements and this is inadmissible.”
The embattled OLAF chief did have some backing from the left S&D Group. Italian deputy, Andrea Cozzolino pointed out that the parliament had been marginalised on the matter. He cautioned that it wasn’t right “to transpose or confuse the acts of the former Commissioner Dalli with the role of OLAF,” adding that this could lead to confusion.
Cozzolino added that people should remember that there were court cases ongoing and politics “should stay out of this story for the moment.''
An OLAF spokesperson was robust in defending the organization, saying, “OLAF denies that it has fabricated, manipulated or concealed any evidence and OLAF's Final Report is complete and accurate, and does not in any way distort or manipulate the evidence. "
They then threatened legal action, “OLAF is considering taking legal action against any person who has made false or defamatory statements against OLAF and/or members of its staff.''
Background: New Europe's coverage of Dalligate