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MEPs: Barroso has to answer for damning OLAF investigation

Green MEPs Jose Bove and Bart Staes – ‘Malta’s honour is at stake on Dalligate’

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
7 May 2013, 12:00am
MEPs Bart Staes and Jose Bove in Valletta
MEPs Bart Staes and Jose Bove in Valletta


Green MEPs Jose Bove and Bart Staes have accused European Commission president Jose Barroso of being politically "at fault" in having forced the resignation of John Dalli without verifying whether an OLAF investigation on bribery allegations forwarded by the tobacco industry, had been carried out using legal methods or not.

The two MEPs said the opinion of the OLAF supervisory committee leaked today had shown that OLAF's investigation on the allegations that prompted Dalli's resignation, was replete with shortcomings and irregularities.

"The question to Barroso is: if he had the OLAF report in hand, why didn't he check that all rules of procedure were followed before telling Dalli to move out? Had he allowed the OLAF report to be evaluated by the supervisory committee (SC) would he still have told Dalli that he had a problem in keeping him on?" Staes asked.

The Dutch MEP said it was now time for Barroso to come clean on the contents of the OLAF report and the new revelations from the supervisory committee's opinion.

"Barroso has to explain his behaviour. If Dalli is not found to be guilty, will he ask for compensation? And who will pay? Barroso, Giovanni Kessler? No, it will be the taxpayer who pays."

The MEPs also presented the press with a copy of the confidential Supervisory Committee opinion.

"The fact that Barroso decided to send the OLAF report to the Maltese authorities before the supervisory committee could analyse it was so that it could not be discussed," Bove told the Maltese press in Valletta today.

"The honour of Malta is at stake. Can you imagine had a French or German commissioner been 'taken out'? It would have been a mess. As MEPs, we cannot accept that Europe works in this way, and that's why we are arguing for transparency. This story has to come to an end."

Bove said that the only wrongdoing he could see in Dalli's actions was having met Swedish Match lobbyist Gayle Kimberley on 6 January 2012, without having publicly registered this meeting. "This is something which he has admitted to."

The two MEPs said the contents of the report by the Supervisory Committee were damning of the investigation carried out by OLAF.

"The task of the SC is to guarantee the fundamental rights of people interviewed by OLAF and to see that all procedures are followed according to EU rules and the case-law of the European Court of Justice," Bart Staes said.

But in the Dalli case, the OLAF investigative report was transferred to the Maltese authorities before the SC could see the report - according to EU law within five days of the conclusion of a case - and evaluate whether the investigation was carried out in respect of fundamental rights.

"This is a bomb. This document states that there were many failures, even illegalities, in the way the investigation was carried out by OLAF," Staes said.

"This is a major problem, and it also has a political element," Staes said. "European Commission president Jose Barroso did not ask OLAF if they had consulted the SC on this sensitive case, which deals with a Commissioner and a representative of a member state. It is about the integrity of Mr Dalli himself."

"He ruined the honour of Malta and he ruined the honour of Mr Dalli," Staes said.

Staes listed various shortcomings of the OLAF report outlined in the committee's opinion: OLAF did not carry out a thorough examination of the allegations before setting out on the inquiry; OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler had a conflict of interest when he participated directly in the investigation; that there was limited evidence for OLAF to carry out a spot-check at Silvio Zammit's restaurant, on allegations of irregularities dealing with EU funds; and that the request for data on telephone calls was illegal.

John Dalli was asked to resign by Barroso on 16 October 2012, on the grounds of a covering letter from OLAF claiming he was aware of an attempt by his canvasser Silvio Zammit, to solicit a 60 million euro bribe from Swedish Match, in a bid to lift an EU ban on the sale of snus tobacco. Although no evidence exists that Dalli had instigated the bribe, Barroso demanding that he resign without showing him the contents of the OLAF report.

French MEP Jose Bove said Dalli's revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, which was intent on keeping the ban on snus, had been repeatedly postponed for consultation by EC secretary-general Catherine Day.

"The fact that Mr Dalli was kicked out so quickly, without any legal basis, shows the tobacco companies wanted to win more time by postponing the Tobacco Products Directive... it was a very strong directive against the tobacco companies," Bove said of Dalli's anti-smoking rules, which were instantly put on ice after his resignation.

"Dalli was refusing to open the market for snus, so it makes no sense that he wanted to accept a bribe for the opposite reason. The fact that Swedish Match's allegations were not verified by OLAF is incredible. OLAF accepted their version of events as fact," Bove said.
matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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Winston John Sawyer
mr barrosso should appoint our ex primeminister and lawyer to defend him!!!it was he with the usual cronies like RCC,BONDI,PEPPI who wanted him dragged to court on false charges!!!!
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Joseph Borg
Have you noticed that the so called EURO news, did not mention anything about the Dalligate and Barosso ? For Euronews, Manchester United are more important than Barosso. Have you noticed how this much biased tv station focus, almost exclusively on Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German affairs ? Hardly any coverage of Scandinavian countries ! The international media is interested in WHERE it happens, not WHAT happens. Same, not WHAT is said, but WHO says it !!
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Malcolm Mifsud
Is this the Europe which boasts of fundamental human rights and then does not follow a due process in sacking John Dalli. Let us not assume that the split of Tonio Borg's portfolio with Croatia is not indirectly related and shows the way the EU is willing to bully its smallest nation whilst using kid's gloves with the major powers. The matter should be raised in the Council of Ministers because there is a fundamental matter of principle involved here with Barroso clearly overstepping his authority.
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I have said it from day 1 that this whole affair is a frame up jointly organised by OLAF with the local support (and instigation) of GONZIPN with the direct collusion of the top echelons of the EU Commission. Rita Schembri, who was on the OLAF committee was promoted to the highest position in the Maltese Civil Service in September 2012 - a month before Barroso forced Dalli out and destroyed Malta's honour. With Kessler as a former Italian Magistrate, I am now starting to believe that the Italian Judiciary, as accused by Berlusconi, whom I cannot stand, is as corrupt as the majority of countries in the hands of the EPP parties. THIS IS THE EUROPE WE HAVE BEEN PROMISED BY THE PN - THE EUROPE THEY INDUCED US TO JOIN UNDER FALSE PRETENCES.
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Imelda Schembri
COME ON GUYS LETS GIVE JOHN DALLI OUR FULL SUPPORT AND CLEAR MALTA'S NAME, AND WHO EVER INVENTED THE FRAME UP SHOULD BE CAOUGHT AND SENT TO JAIL.
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Fl-elezzjoni li gejja tal-MEP's ser nivvota bil-qalb l-ewwel lil Dr Alfred Sant tal-vizjoni li kellu fuq l-EU. Qatt ma kien kontra shubija kontra l-EU, izda li ma konniex preparati u li lilna kienu jqisuna makku. Gejna ezatt fi kliemu.
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Josanne Cassar
By disregarding the considerable number of issues that Barroso has to answer to does not mean that thses questions are going to go away. Barroso has to lead by example. He has to show in no uncertain way that he had nothing to do with this suspicious and crap of investigation. The longer he takes to clear the air, the heavier the air will become! Shame on the EU's Commission President to act in such an irresponsible manner.
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ruth mallia
Barroso behaved worse than a Medieval baron would have done with his serfs. He showed and continues to show a total disregard of and disrespect towards the European Parliament. He is no Charlemagne but has arrogated to himself more power than that emperor had.
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Josanne Cassar
"The honour of Malta is at stake. Can you imagine had a French or German commissioner been 'taken out'? It would have been a mess. As MEPs, we cannot accept that Europe works in this way, and that's why we are arguing for transparency". the Maltese should be extremely grateful to these two MEPs for sticking their neck out. What did Simon Busuttil do about former Commissioner Dalli who comes from his own party? Nothing! Shame.
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ruth mallia
Barroso behaved worse than a Medieval baron would have done with his serfs. He showed and continues to show a total disregard of and disrespect towards the European Parliament. He is no Charlemagne but has arrogated to himself more power than that emperor had.
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Dear Matthew Vella, after readying your report I came to ask if the E.U. is really for the people. Here we have two men that one I on TV supposed to be an ex-judge accusing Mr. Dalli having no one to defend Mr. Dalli and I hear Barrosa so quick to order Mr. Dalli out. How true is the saying: When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fear the people there is Liberty-- Thomas Jefferson. Is this what the E.U. is about strong with the weak and weak with the strong.
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Rachel Roberts
PLOT FOR A FIRST CLASS POLITICAL THRILLER ! Get it on film ;)