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Dalli insists OLAF report a ‘fraud’ in reaction to Kessler interview
Giovanni Kessler taunts former European Commissioner with suggestion that Dalli has never taken to task Silvio Zammit for soliciting a bribe that cost him his career: “He has been very proactive to denounce everybody... but not Silvio Zammit. What would you do if a former friend betrayed you and that cost you your career?”
22 March 2015, 7:15pm
In comments to The Sunday Times, Kessler – who earlier this week testified in the criminal charges brought against Zammit, 58 – questioned Dalli’s decision to accused him of perjury instead off turning the guns on Zammit.
“He (Mr Dalli) has been very proactive, going to the police in Malta, in Belgium, to the press and in other fora, to denounce everybody... but not Silvio Zammit. What would you do if a former friend betrayed you and that cost you your career?” Giovanni Kessler asked.
“He could have taken Mr Zammit to court for tarnishing his reputation... He could have accused him of trading in influence to his detriment. There is no question that Silvio Zammit has damaged Mr Dalli, greatly. Mr Dalli also has the right I think, to be a civil party in the criminal case. It would give Mr Dalli the right to have a lawyer in that case putting questions to Mr Zammit. He didn’t. Why?”
In a statement, Dalli reacted saying that he is waiting for the conclusion of the judicial process currently underway to “consider [his] options”.
“I believe that the conclusion of these procedures should be judicial action against Kessler and against the employees of Swedish Match, Hildingsson, Gabrielsson and Delfosse who have concocted and implemented the set-up against me. Not to the mention politicians and functionaries in Brussels and in Malta who were privy to this fraud,” Dalli said.
“I have asked my lawyer many times for a chance to be involved in the judicial proceedings but his advice always was that the court would never accept it. I would have had the opportunity to question Rizzo, Kessler and the Swedish Match/Estoc employees who are afraid to take the stand in Malta.”
Dalligate and snus affair
Silvio Zammit was revealed in an OLAF investigation of having solicited the multi-million bribe from Swedish Match and the European Smokeless Tobacco Organisation (Estoc) to reverse an EU retail ban on snus. The investigation was used by former EC president José Barroso to sack Dalli when the Maltese commissioner refused to resign.
Dalli has challenged the forced resignation in the European Court of Justice.
In his statement, released Sunday evening, Dalli questioned why Kessler had not taken action against Swedish Match officials Johann Gabrielsson and Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson who had stated that OLAF and the Maltese police advised Gabrielsson to stick to a false version of events that Maltese lawyer Gayle Kimberley had been privy to talks to a meeting that she was not part of.
“Gabrielsson is heard saying ‘They said like this, we can’t give you any orders how you, because you have done nothing wrong in this, but we have done an investigation, there is Maltese investigations, it would be preferably that this is not disturbed and this will definitely not help certain things that come out’,” Dalli said.
“This he did with relish in a speech he delivered in the European Parliament. I instituted legal proceedings in Brussels against Swedish Match – now even extended against OLAF – about what was stated in that meeting,” Dalli said of Kessler’s press conference on 17 October, the day after his dismissal.
Dalli also questioned why Kessler had not taken action against Green MEPs José Bové and Bart Staes, who claim that the OLAF report was “manipulated, partial, biased and full of lies and illegalities”; or EPP member Ingre Graessle, who has demanded his resignation following the OLAF Supervisory Committee’s review of the Dalligate investigation; or transparency NGO Corporate European Observatory.
OLAF is still investigating allegations that John Dalli made an undeclared layover to the Bahamas right in the midst of their investigation into the snus bribes, ostensibly some time after Silvio Zammit called him following his interrogation by Kessler in Malta in the summer of 2012.
In court his week, Kessler said that two of Dalli’s former aides, former head of cabinet Joanna Darmanin and Philippa Duarte, told OLAF that the commissioner had brought up the issue of repealing the ban on snus. But another witness from OLAF who testified in court presented only Darmanin’s witness statement as evidence.
“Does Alberto Potenza think that the Maltese are gullible enough to believe that he only had with him one of the two declarations? What is wrong with the Duarte statement? Why did Kessler say that he does not have the documents when his assistant, travelling with him had them?” Dalli asked.
Dalli charged his former chef de cabinet Joanna Darmanin with coveting the post of head of the European Commission representation in Malta at a time when a call for applications had yet not been made and having failed her concourse examination. “This appointment was to be forced without any consultation with the Maltese government,” Dalli alleged.
Dalli has also published an extract from a document prepared by Darmanin “behind my back” at the end of August 2012 titled ‘Negotiation in Tobacco Products Directive’, which he claims shows Darmanin “plotting with someone else how to dilute the directive – including the lifting of the snus ban.”
Kessler told The Sunday Times that he has not checked Darmanin’s allegations because he had closed the investigation about the Swedish Match allegations.
“This is another lie,” Dalli charged. “In the letter OLAF sent me on 1 October 2013, informing me that they had opened yet another investigation on me, he stated that: ‘New elements emerged concerning your possible involvement with an alleged request for a bribe made in exchange for the promise that a proposal for lifting the EU ban on snus would be presented in order to benefit two economic operators from the tobacco industry.’
“Today I must conclude that he was referring to these false and defamatory statements by Darmanin and Duarte. Also in a further letter dated 3 November 2014, OLAF included what they stated as ‘a statement of facts’ arising from their investigation – which I assumed was concluded – [but] they do not include any reference to the statements by Darmanin and Duarte or, for that matter, any reference to any wrongdoing in the Bahamas except taking a trip and staying in a villa which in fact involved no additional cost.”
Dalli said his reply was that their account was not a statement of fact but a list of warped conjectures.
“Kessler has for the umpteenth time breached confidentiality on this investigation, and I am now feeling free to publish all the documentation I have relating to it.”
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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