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Transparency watchdog files EU complaint over Swedish Match

Corporate European Observatory files complaint over “unethical lobbying” for going to Malta to find John Dalli’s personal contacts.

Matthew Vella
2 April 2013, 12:00am
L-R John Dalli, Gayle Kimberley, and Silvio Zammit.
L-R John Dalli, Gayle Kimberley, and Silvio Zammit.

Transparency watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has submitted a complaint to the Transparency Register secretariat against Swedish Match, for violating the EU's Code of Conduct for lobbyists.

The complaint by CEO includes Swedish Match's "unethical lobbying" for going to Malta to find the former European Commissioner John Dalli's personal contacts, and hiring unregistered lobbyists, as well as the fact that "the company lied to MEPs about Dalligate."

Swedish Match public affairs director Johan Gabrielsson admitted to Green MEP José Bové that his company was asked to tell MEPs a misleading version of events of an attempt to solicit a bribe from the Swedish company, ostensibly to reverse an EU ban on the sale of snus tobacco, which Swedish Match produces.

The Dalligate affair entered a new stage last week when Swedish Match admitted that they knew that the second of two lobby meetings with Dalli - who resigned on 16 October 20102 - where an alleged €60 million bribe was offered, had not in fact taken place, and claimed that OLAF had instructed them to stick to the erroneous story.

"This creates even bigger doubts about the 'unambiguous circumstantial' evidence in the OLAF report that Commission President José Barroso used to force Dalli to resign. The urgency that Barroso and OLAF end the secrecy around Dalligate and put the facts on the table has never been greater," CEO said.

CEO has also submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman against OLAF, specifically for rejecting access to the investigation report on the Dalli case. CEO had requested partial access to the report on the basis of the EU's freedom of information law, but OLAF rejected this, saying that there is no overriding public interest in the disclosure of the report.

The report is currently in the hands of police investigators, who have issued charges of money laundering, trading in influence and bribery against Silvio Zammit, 48 of Sliema, who asked Swedish Match for €60 million to reverse the ban on snus.

Zammit had originally brokered a meeting between John Dalli and Maltese lawyer Gayle Kimberley, who was employed by Swedish Match for €5,000 to gain access to the commissioner, and speak to him over his proposed review of the Tobacco Products Directive.

CEO has submitted several new freedom of information requests, including two requests aimed at uncovering more about Swedish Match lobbyists who went through the revolving door from the EU institutions: Gabrielsson and Kimberley both worked at the European Commission and the EU Council's legal services department, respectively.

CEO has also submitted a request for all correspondence between the Commission's Secretariat-General and Michel Petite, the former head of the Commission's legal service who is now a layer for Clifford Chance, lobbyists for the tobacco industry.

"The longer the Commission and OLAF remain silent about what really happened in the Dalligate cash-for-access tobacco lobby scandal, the more damage is being done to public trust in the institutions. Green MEPs have now called for a special committee to be set up, to address the shortcomings in the EU's ethics rules and lobbying regulation that Dalligate has illustrated so clearly. CEO supports this as a crucial step to clearing the smoke around Dalligate and ensuring that scandals like this do not happen in future," CEO said.
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
What a scandal! I wish the best for John Dalli.