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Trading in influence charge against Swedish Match lobbyist time-barred

Since the alleged crime of trading in influence would have taken place right before in the months leading up to August 2012, the crime would by now be prescribed at law

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
6 August 2017, 8:30am
John Dalli: €1m lawsuit filed against OLAF
John Dalli: €1m lawsuit filed against OLAF
Five years ago, the European Commission’s anti-fraud agency OLAF was busy poring over a serious allegation brought by the smokeless tobacco lobby (Estoc) that a Maltese businessman was requesting a €60 million bribe so that the EU’s health commissioner John Dalli kills a retail ban on snus tobacco.

The ‘Dalligate’ investigation resulted in the forced resignation of Dalli, 68, in October 2012, but OLAF – led by its Italian director Giovanni Kessler – said in a confidential report that charges should be brought against businessman Silvio Zammit, and a Maltese lawyer, Gayle Kimberley.

Kessler’s conclusion was that Zammit could have been acting on behalf of Dalli, in a clear act of bribery; if not, he was still suspected of having trade in influence when he demanded the bribe for the lifting of the snus ban from a Swedish Match company man in the presence of Kimberley, their Malta rep.

He also said Kimberley was involved in the alleged bribe, finding contradictions in her statements and suggesting she had played a duplicitous role by assisting Zammit in drawing up an email to request payment for his services. Kessler suggested she too could be charged with either bribery or trading in influence.

But that latter charge is now time-barred by Maltese law.

All crimes liable to imprisonment for a term of between 12 to four years, are time-barred after a lapse of five years.

While Zammit was charged with bribery in December 2012 – two months after the Attorney General was given the OLAF report – Kimberley was never charged. But it was clear to police who read the OLAF report that in February 2012, her husband Matthew scripted a lobbying proposal that Zammit was to forward to Estoc – the same list of services that Gayle Kimberley had given to Swedish Match (a member of the Estoc lobby) back in 2011 upon her recruitment by the company.

But Zammit sent out a careless copy-and-paste in March 2012, with his subject header reading “Re: Copy/paste proposal”, left on from the original email the Kimberleys had sent him. The Kimberleys had been rumbled.

Since the alleged crime of trading in influence would have taken place right before in the months leading up to August 2012, the crime would by now be time-barred at law.

Dalli, whom Kessler said was surely responsible of “a serious breach of his duty to behave in keeping with the dignity of his office” but never suggested a criminal charge, was never arraigned in Malta. However, former police chief John Rizzo claims he intended to charge the politician after the March 2013 general election.

€1 million lawsuit

Never a stranger to controversy, John Dalli is still the subject of a major investigation.

After losing a European Court of Justice case claiming unfair dismissal by former Commission president, Dalli pursued a criminal report with the Belgian police against OLAF and Swedish Match for defamation and abuse of power.

But even after Dalligate, OLAF continued investigating a fraud scheme that implicated Dalli, the findings of which were forwarded to the Maltese Attorney General in 2016.

The EU investigators were said to have linked Dalli to a Ponzi-like scheme that duped investors of at least $1.5 million. The allegations are that trips Dalli had made to the Bahamas in 2012 were related to this scheme — nicknamed Gold Pool — led by Eloise Corbin, an American con artist who lives in Malta. Investigators say that as Commissioner, Dalli and Corbin travelled together in 2011 and 2012 to a German health spa, and spent time together at a villa in the Bahamas, where he benefited from the use of an $8,000-a-month beachside villa that was not declared to the European Commission.

As police investigations intensify in Malta, on 25 May 2017 Dalli took the step to file a new case in the European Court of Justice, this time demanding financial compensation of €1 million for damages suffered in the fallout from the OLAF report.

“What took place against me was a clear act of fraud,” Dalli told GWU newspaper l-orizzont yesterday, which reported the former commissioner claiming he has proof that Kessler tampered the evidence and corrupted witnesses.

John Dalli writes (6 August, 2017)

I refer to your article ‘Trading in influence charges prescribed’ (6 August, 2017).

You chose to insinuate that the police investigation on the second fraud that Giovanni Kessler, in association with Daphne Caruana Galizia, perpetuated against my family and myself is “intensifying”. I do not have any contact with the police and you might be privy to information of which I am not aware.

What I know is that this case has been investigated by the police since May 2015 immediately after Michael Brady made a false report to them. In October 2016 the investigating officer at the time showed me the report he sent to the Attorney General saying that there is no case against me. Kessler, bitter and embattled as he was being hounded by the Belgian Police for criminal acts committed during his snus investigation, also wrote a report which he sent to the Attorney General in June 2016. I have been asking for a copy of this report both from OLAF and the Attorney General and it has been refused repeatedly. 

I want a copy of this report so that if its contents are what I believe they are, I will institute other criminal complaints in Belgium against Kessler and OLAF. As was the snus report, this new report was based on lies.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.