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Dalli enquired over snus law amendments, claim EC employees • Former commissioner says OLAF showing ‘bad faith’

The witnesses are European Commission employees who were interviewed as part of a second probe into Dalli, relating to the undeclared trips he had made to the Bahamas.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
28 September 2014, 9:42am
John Dalli
John Dalli
The EU’s anti-fraud agency (OLAF) has sent a new evidence note, with testimonies of two people who have made statements that former European Commissioner John Dalli enquired about the possibility of amending EU legislation relating to the smokeless tobacco snus, some time in 2012.

The claims, made in The Times of Malta, suggest that the enquiries were made at around the same time as his former canvasser, Silvio Zammit, allegedly asked for a bribe from Swedish Match for lifting an EU retail ban on snus.

The witnesses are European Commission employees who were interviewed as part of a second probe into Dalli, relating to the undeclared trips he had made to the Bahamas – ostensibly on charity work – while he was serving as Commissioner.

The testimony has been passed on to the Maltese Attorney General, but in the meantime Silvio Zammit is already facing charges on having requested a bribe from Swedish Match and smokeless tobacco lobby Estoc, in Malta. Zammit is alleged to have asked for €60 million to help lift the ban.

In a reaction, Dalli said the new evidence was redolent of the “bad faith of OLAF and their collaborators in Malta”.

“They assume that I could have only discussed snus with Silvio Zammit. In fact this is far from the truth. I had various discussions on snus with ministers of the Swedish government and with Swedish MEPs who were aggressively pressing for the liberalisation of the product. If OLAF have a shred of decency, they would have easily found this out as it is well documented,” Dalli said.

“OLAF never confronted me with this statement. So why do OLAF bring this up now?”

As European Commissioner, Dalli was spearheading a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive that included retaining the EU retail ban on snus, which was only on sale in Sweden.

“Following these meetings, and at the time that I was concluding with my Services all aspects of our proposal for the revision of the Tobacco Directive, I could have asked for legal clarity on the issue from my services as it is my practice to follow up on my meetings.

“In fact, the concluding meeting with my Services on the revision of the Tobacco Directive took place on the 28th February 2012.”

Dalli accused OLAF “and their collaborators in Malta” of clutching at straws to “wiggle out of the obvious conclusions being reached by all objective observers, that a fraud was perpetuated against me.”

He said this much was stated by Swedish Match’s vice-president Johan Gabrielsson in statements he gave to OLAF on 19 September 2012, who had told an MEP that he was asked not to reveal that a second meeting between Dalli and Swedish Match lobbyist Gayle Kimberley in Malta had never taken place.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.