Former Sliema deputy mayor Silvio Zammit.
The Nationalist deputy mayor of Sliema, Silvio Zammit, tendered his resignation Tuesday evening at 8:30pm, after it was established that he was in email and telephonic communication with Swedish snuff producers Swedish Match in 2011, in an attempt to broker a meeting with European Commissioner John Dalli.
MaltaToday has seen an email confirming the communication that took place between Zammit and Swedish Match.
In his resignation letter to PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier, Zammit said he was resigning due to personal reasons.
Dalli this evening resigned as health and consumer affairs commissioner after a probe by the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF found circumstantial evidence that he was aware of an attempt at corruption surrounding new legislation on the Swedish tobacco product known as snus.
The allegations, which he has denied, were reported to the Commission in 2011 and findings by OLAF were verbally communicated to him on Tuesday evening.
MaltaToday is informed that Zammit was in contact with Swedish Match over the possibility of influencing John Dalli ahead of a major revision of the Tobacco Products Directive that would have further regulated the access of tobacco to minors and other non-tobacco products like Swedish Match's snus.
Swedish Match told MaltaToday that had they received an "indecent proposal that was a real and credible offer" by a Maltese businessman who claimed he could influence Dalli on his anti-tobacco legislation.
According to the email between Zammit and Swedish Match, the Nationalist councillor was offered a fee to broker a meeting between the company and John Dalli.
Snus is a type of smokeless tobacco sold in loose form or in paper sachets that users stuff under their upper lip - snus sales are banned in the EU, except in Sweden, which insisted on an exemption when it joined the EU.
Dalli, who as health and consumer affairs Commissioner was pursuing anti-tobacco legislation, said in a statement this evening that the anti-fraud office "did not find any conclusive evidence" of his direct involvement in a scheme to profit from his office but felt "that he was aware of these events."
On its part, Swedish Match spokesperson Patrik Hildingsson told MaltaToday that the company received the offer by the businessman - whose identity they did not divulge - back in 2011.
"We believed it was real and credible enough for us to warrant a report to the European Commission. We felt it was highly indecent, and a few weeks later we informed the EC of the circumstances of this offer.
"We're not after anybody's head. But we felt it was credible enough for us to inform the Commission. We never heard of anything since then and only now have we been informed of the OLAF investigation."
Hildingsson said the businessman's offer was related to the regulation of snus sales outside Sweden. "We have had no historical relationship with the person and this was the first advance of the sort we had."
The OLAF report will go to the Attorney General of Malta, who will decide on what steps to take on the investigation.
Earlier this year, Dalli launched an own-initiative to regulate tobacco products and reduce cigarettes' appeal to young people in the form of a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. The revision included the regulation of access to tobacco in a more stringent manner to limit the exposure of minors to tobacco products, and how to address new types of nicotine products on the market, such as electronic cigarettes.
This ostensibly included the regulation of snus, the Swedish tobacco snuff produced by Swedish Match.
As claimed on its website, Swedish Match wanted the European Commission to live up to promises of "smart regulation" during the revision on the Tobacco Products Directive.
Swedish Match was of the opinion that the EU ban on snus lacked a justified reason and was both discriminatory and disproportionate, and a violation of the free trade principle that denied adults "access to a traditional and viable non-combustible tobacco alternative that is scientifically well documented."
In an offical press statement released later in the evening, Swedish Match said it took this incident very seriously. "Swedish Match expects that the European Commission in the future will ensure a transparent and legally fair process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive which is expected during the autumn. Swedish Match expects that proven scientific facts regarding snus, including the well documented significantly lower health risks compared to cigarettes which are allowed in the EU, are considered in a continued fair legal process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive."