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‘Pompous’ OLAF director claimed he was more powerful than police

Former IAID director tells court she was not aware OLAF personnel had interviewed Maltese witness Gayle Kimberley in Portugal

chris_mangion
Chris Mangion
16 January 2014, 12:00am
Giovanni Kessler
Giovanni Kessler


A witness to the interrogation of Silvio Zammit, charged with having sought bribes from the European smokeless tobacco lobby to reverse an EU ban on the sale of snus tobacco, has described OLAF director Giovanni Kessler as "pompous".

Mario Debono, an employee of the Internal Audit and Investigation Department, said he was instructed to accompany the EU's anti-fraud agency's efforts to interrogate Zammit.

But he added that Kessler had been "pompous" throughout his interrogation, boasting with Zammit that the anti-fraud agency's powers were greater than the police's.

The former director of the Internal Audit and Investigation Department (IAID) at the Office of the Prime Minister, Rita Schembri, also took the stand today, saying she was not aware that OLAF personnel had interviewed lawyer Gayle Kimberly in Portugal although Schembri herself described her presence during the interview of Silvio Zammit as being a way to ensure the rights of Maltese citizens are protected.

Schembri took the witness stand in the compilation of evidence against Silvio Zammit, who is charged with trading in influence and bribery, in a bid to get former EU commissioner for health John Dalli to reverse a retail ban on snus tobacco.

OLAF had informed the IAID, as the liaison office for the anti-fraud agency, that they were conducting an investigation in Malta and to carry out the necessary preparations for a spot-check at Zammit's pizzeria.

Schembri said this was an OLAF investigation led by director Giovanni Kessler. "We attended the interviews with Silvio Zammit to ensure his rights as a Maltese citizen were respected."

She said she was not aware that other Maltese citizens, namely Gayle Kimberley, had already been interviewed in Portugal and Brussels.

After a spot-check at his Sliema restaurant, Zammit was summoned for a formal interview at the IAID offices with Kessler on 5 July, 2012.

Schembri said Kessler repeatedly called Zammit "a liar" when he asked him about the alleged bribes he asked to get the European Commissioner to reverse a ban on snus tobacco.

She said Kessler had mentioned a telephone recording he had of Zammit entertaining the bribe, but which he refused to play.

Another IAID employee, Mario Debono, also testified in court, revealing that Kessler physically blocked Silvio Zammit's exit when the latter decided to leave the interview, citing medical conditions.

While Schembri said she "could not recall any incident" throughout the interview, Debono said Kessler tried to stop Zammit from leaving the interview.

Debono confirmed that Kessler first asked Zammit questions about EU funding when he visited him at his Sliema restaurant, before summoning him for an interview in connection with any trading of influence on the snus ban.

"Kessler was very pompous, telling Zammit that OLAF's powers went beyond those of the local police and repeatedly calling him a liar."

Debono also said that the IAID had kept recordings of the interview Kessler had held with Zammit, something that Zammit's defence counsel was unaware of. The court ordered that the file be exhibited in court, rather than hearing its contents.

Inspector Jonathan Ferris prosecuted while lawyers Edward Gatt and Kris Busietta are appearing for Zammit.
chris_mangion
Chris Mangion is MaltaToday’s photojournalist, joining the newspaper in 2013.

In 1995...

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Are these the who their lackeys in Malta want us to listen too? But honeastly I can't really blame Kessler for his arrogance, since the opfficials from Malta that he used to meet were just pain a**e lickers and he thought that all Maltese were like them. Kessler wantys to understand that the majority nof the Maltese arer not like that. The results of the last election showed him that.-
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This is the sheer arrogance of the unelected despicable despotic corrupt colonial €USSR petty dictators.
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The EU demigods believe they are above God and the Citizens. Kessler and Barroso are such examples who has shown their contempt at our National Institutions (aided by the PN Klikka who have now clearly shown their hand in betraying Malta). The treatment of John Dalli was in the very least despicable, at the most highly criminal and the fact that Kessler considered himself above our Malta Police shows the intentions and instructions he was following to crucify John Dalli who dared criticize the PN before the last elections.
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Janice Sant
Pompous and self praising himself that he is stronger than the Police? I believe him, that this might have been so under the administration of Lawrence Gonzi: not any more Mr Pompous!
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Does this Kessler think we are naked natives running around and afraid of the White man's magic??? Arrogant person to say the least!!
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Michael Lanfranco
All EU comsider themselves stronger than the police and they want to police all member states
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George Muscat
Do you want to be part of the CLUB??? They pretend they know it ALL are Superior in every aspect to us, the Maltese. I think Malta should do like Britain, thinking of bailing out.