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Updated | Police chief says Kessler’s request was not legally correct

Updated | Police summons for OLAF chief to testify in compilation of evidence against Silvio Zammit over alleged Dalligate bribery only issued 'a few days ago' say legal sources • Giovanni Kessler says police ignored request to cooperate on ongoing Dalli investigation three times

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
2 July 2014, 1:24pm
Last updated on 2 July 2014, 7:35pm
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler
The Commissioner of Police, Peter Paul Zammit, has replaied to claims by Giovanni Kessler, the head of the EU's anti-fraud agency OLAF, that he ignored three requests to cooperate with OLAF on an ongoing investigation on former European Commissioner John Dalli.

Zammit said that he answered to the only request made by Kessler after having carried out the necessary legal verification. "The request was not in conformity with legal procedures. Even if these procedures were followed, there was a lack of legal basis to accede to his request," he told TVM.com.mt.

"I'm here to be in line with the law, in all its aspects, and I won't allow the collection of alleged evidence in breach of the law," Zammit continued.

Earlier today, MaltaToday reported that Kessler would not be coming to Malta to testify as a witness in the compilation of evidence against Silvio Zammit tomorrow, who stands accused of soliciting a bribe from Swedish Match in a bid to influence EU tobacco legislation.

Legal sources said Kessler had only been issued with a summons to testify in the case "a few days ago", suggesting that the police prosecutors may have been slow in calling for the anti-fraud office's director to answer questions about the investigation he concluded into the so called Dalligate affair.

But Kessler is however attributing other reasons to his decision to skip this appointment: he was told he could be arrested if he came to Malta.

In a letter he sent to the Speaker of the House, in reply to an invitation to testify in the Privileges Committee over a breach of privilege complaint raised by the Prime Minister, Kessler confirmed he will not be coming to Malta but said he remained available to cooperate with the committee by appearing before it at one of its next hearings.

Kessler also said that on three separate occasions – 22 October 2013, 31 March 2014 and 6 May 2014, OLAF requested Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit to collaborate on a new OLAF investigation concerning Dalli.

“To this date, and despite the reminders, OLAF has not received any answer by Zammit,” Kessler said.

In his letter, Kessler also wrote that Dalli had told someone to convey to him information the Police Commissioner could have him arrested if he came to Malta. “On 19th June 2014, a source known to me informed me that during a meeting which took place on the same day in Brussels, Mr Dalli asked him to convey to me the message not to go to Malta, because I might be arrested there,” Kessler wrote.

Silvio Zammit, who denies the charges brought against him, was said to have demanded a €60 million bribe from Swedish Match and smokeless tobacco lobby Estoc, to reverse an EU retail ban on snus by influencing European commissioner John Dalli, who later resigned over the allegations, on 16 October 2012. Dalli is pursuing an unfair dismissal case in the European Court of Justice.

Kessler was later accused by the OLAF supervisory committee of having breached internal investigation rules, and of using evidence such as an illegal recording carried out by Estoc personnel.

Parliamentary sources said it was unlikely that Kessler will also testify at a hearing of the privileges committee of the House of Representatives, where the committee was considering a breach of privilege complaint raised by the Prime Minister.

The committee is investigating Joseph Muscat’s complaint against Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who in October accused the Prime Minister of interfering in the police investigation against former EU commissioner John Dalli.

During a parliamentary debate Muscat had asked Busuttil to withdraw or substantiate the allegation. Busuttil refused and Muscat filed a breach of privilege complaint.

Busuttil had argued that a series of political actions, mainly the appointment of Peter Paul Zammit as Police Commissioner and the reappointment of the team investigating the Dalli case, led him to deduce that there had been political interference in the case.

Kessler was expected to be the opposition’s first witness, with the next meeting scheduled for 4 July.

Dalli resigned on 16 October 2012 but was not given access to the OLAF investigation conducted on Silvio Zammit, a restaurateur accused in court of having solicited a €60 million bribe from Swedish Match to reverse an EU ban on the retail of snus, a smokeless tobacco legally sold only in Sweden. Zammit denies the charges, while a Swedish Match lobbyist whom OLAF said should be liable on similar charges – Gayle Kimberley – was never charged by the Maltese police.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.