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Brussels refuses to disclose Swedish Match complaint on Dalli

EU’s secretariat-general refuses turns down Freedom of Information request for Swedish Match complaint

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
14 May 2014, 10:50am
John Dalli
John Dalli
The European Commission is refusing to disclose the letter from Swedish Match sent to the European Commission on 14 May 2012, in which it reported allegations of bribery against former commissioner John Dalli to the EU’s secretary-general.

The EC turned down a freedom of information request filed by Oliver Hoedeman, from transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory.

The request document contains the allegations by Swedish tobacco firm Swedish Match concerning Maltese restaurateur Silvio Zammit and Dalli, which led to an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF and which later led Commission president José Manuel Barroso to demand Dalli’s resignation from the Commission in October 2012.

“Disclosing the allegations made against Mr Dalli at this stage when the subsequent judicial proceedings are still on-going would undermine the protection of court proceedings,” a spokesperson for the EU’s secretary-general (EUSG) said.

The allegations against Dalli investigated by OLAF were only transmitted to the Maltese authorities, which subsequently opened proceedings against Silvio Zammit but not against Dalli, or Gayle Kimberley, who was described as a potential accomplice by OLAF in the alleged bribery.

“Since the proceedings to which the requested document pertains are fully ongoing, its disclosure would have the effect of exposing judicial activities to external pressure, albeit only in the perception of the public, and would disturb the serenity of these proceedings and thus undermine their protection,” the EUSG said in turning down the FOI request.

“The public interest in disclosure of the letter of Swedish Match does not, on balance, outweigh the need for continued protection of the judicial proceedings. Furthermore, until the judicial proceedings are completed, Mr Dalli and any other party, including Swedish Match, benefit from the presumption of innocence. Disclosing allegations made against Mr Dalli when the court proceedings are on-going would clearly breach this presumption and, therefore, undermine the protection of Mr Dalli’s integrity.”

The EUSG said partial request was not possible either, because the content was fully covered by the legal exceptions to being invoked.

John Dalli was asked to resign in October 2012 over an OLAF report which alleged that he was aware that Silvio Zammit had demanded up to €50 million from Swedish Match and smokeless tobacco lobby ESTOC, to reverse an EU retail ban on snus.

The unpublished report was leaked by MaltaToday, showing that the circumstantial evidence pointing to Dalli were records of telephone calls made with Zammit in between his dealings with ESTOC.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.