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Updated | Dalli reacts to €60m bribe claims: ‘Reversing snus ban was unthinkable’

Updated | Snus lobby chairman says Swedish Match was asked for millions to reverse snus ban in John Dalli’s upcoming review of tobacco laws. Dalli says Tobacco directive was concluded in 25 February.

Matthew Vella
19 October 2012, 12:00am
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported a €60 million bribe to reverse a snus ban that was in force since 1995.
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported a €60 million bribe to reverse a snus ban that was in force since 1995.
Updated at 2:26pm.

John Dalli has denied any knowledge of a €60 million bribe that was asked of Swedish Match, in an alleged bid to change an export ban on Swedish snus in his review of the Tobacco Products Directive he was to launch on 22 October - next Monday.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet says the chairman of the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC) Patrik Hildingsson - who is also the vice-president of snus manufacturer Swedish Match - has confirmed his company was asked for some €60 million to influence a legislative change in the export ban on snus that has been in force since Sweden's accession to the EU in 1995.

Hildingsson (pictured), whose company filed a complaint to the European Commission over the alleged bribe, is chairman of the same lobby which on 16 March - according to an email published in MaltaToday - asked Maltese restaurateur Silvio Zammit how much he would charge for an "informal meeting" with European health commissioner John Dalli.

Dalli resigned on Tuesday over an investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF which claimed there is "circumstantial evidence" that shows he was aware that Zammit was using his name, in a bid to extract a bribe, to influence EU legislation.

"As I have told OLAF before, I don't know anything of this offer, and neither did I know what was going on between these parties. This is news to me," Dalli told MaltaToday this afternoon.

"Additionally, they are rather fantastical fees for a request to change something that was simply not possible to consider," Dalli said.

Dalli was leading an anti-smoking campaign culminating in a review of the Tobacco Products Directive for 22 October, which also reinforced the ban on smokeless tobacco among other things. Swedish snus can only be sold in Sweden under an EU dispensation.

According to the former commissioner, the forthcoming review did not include any change in the status of snus. "A court sentence already bans the sale of snus outside Sweden. Changing it would have been political suicide. Additionally, I finalised the directive on 25 February, which kept the snus ban and also proposed a ban on all smokeless tobacco."

Dalli said that after closing the directive, and carrying out the ensuing public consultation, he was informed in August that the European Commission's secretariat-general and its legal services wanted to overhaul parts of the law due to some proposals they did not consider acceptable. "Although it was postponed to 22 October, the directive still kept the snus ban, so there was no question of any change in the law from its status on 25 February."

Aftonbladet has reported that the alleged bribe was requested in the form of a €10 million down-payment, and then another €50 million after the export ban on snus was removed.

Aftonbladet said the Swedish Federation of Trade estimated a €300 million increase in export revenues for Sweden if the ban was reversed. Swedish Match also operates a joint-venture with Philip Morris International for the sale of snus outside of Scandinavia and the United States.

Hildingsson told Aftonbladet: "You have to very careful when you suspect that legislation is on sale. What is clear, is that there should be absolute zero tolerance."

Hildingsson also surmised that Dalli's Mediterranean origins could have undermined his professionalism: "I don't know how widespread this is. Could it be that we in the Nordic countries are less susceptible to this type of business? This is just unpleasant."

MaltaToday has already reported that Philip Morris representatives and ESTOC secretary-general Inge Delfosse met John Dalli in a public consultation meeting in Brussels on 7 March to discuss the review of the Tobacco Products Directive, which was expected to keep the ban on snus sales. [READ PDF of minutes]

Delfosse then spoke to Zammit via email on 16 March, claiming there were "bad rumours" in Brussels and enquired how much he would charge to set up an informal meeting with Dalli.

Hildingsson told Aftonbladet it was not up to him to comment on claims by health groups such as the European Respiratory Society, whose offices were ransacked the day after Dalli's resignation, that a conspiracy was afoot to put the Tobacco Directive review on ice.

The Barroso Commission has so far confirmed that it will be a new health commissioner who will see to the Tobacco Directive review, which as things stand, is now frozen.

Swedish snus was also threatened by Dalli's attempt to ban different flavourings of tobacco, which the EC claimed was deisgned to attract women and minors to the smokeless tobacco mix, which is consumed by being placed under the lip. The contentious issue is at the heart of a big struggle between big tobacco firms and big pharma interests all vieing for the European Commission's favour.

Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
Dalli requests 60 million Euro from a business in order to forward its interest. And he is still walking the streets of Malta as a free man. Shame on you all Maltese! Southern Europe ways against Northern Europe ways.
Monique Vella
Mhux hazin minn bejjiegh ta' l-imqaret ghal 60 MILJUN Ewro fil-but! Iva. Flimkmien Kollox Possibbli!
Better Future
Mr. UNZ and Everyone at welcome this long over-due decision by the Swedish Government. The EU's hasty and ill-conceived Swedish Snus Ban of 1992 made no logical sense at the time, made less sense as study after study continued to show the reduced harm value of Swedish Snus especially compared to Cigarettes, the import and export of which is not banned in the EU. This should not be a drawn out process, as mentioned in the Swedish Match Press Release below, but especially in today's tough economic climate world-wide, but a quick and easy reversal. We wish the Swedish Government the best of luck. Swedish Match is a global Group with a broad offering of market-leading brands in smokefree tobacco products, cigars, pipe tobacco and lights products. The Group’s global operations generated sales of 13,061 MSEK for the twelve month period ending September 30, 2008. The Swedish Match share is listed on the OMX Nordic Exchange in Stockholm (SWMA). !!!!!!!!x'sahha ta flus!!!!!!!!!! Kull kumment hu superflu!!!!!!!!!jhalli izjed u izjed dubbji milli provi
Manuel Cini
Dalgħodu l-Prim ministru Gonzi qal li L-każ ta' John Dalli, huwa mbarazzanti għar-reputazzjoni ta' Malta f'għajnejn l'Unjoni Ewropeja! Jekk jirriżulta li veru s-sur John Dalli kien b'xi mod involut, naqbel perfettament ma' Dr. Gonzi. Pero nfakkru li meta l-BWSC rebħet it-tender għall-bini tal-power station il-ġdida, il-gvern niżżel il-parametri tal-emissjonijiet biex il-BWSC tkun tista' tirbaħ it-tender! Nistaqsi jien bl'umilta kollha, allura dan il-każ ma' kienx imbarazzanti u skandaluż f'ghajnejn Dr. Gonzi u l-klikka tiegħu? Jew mhux ma' kulħadd timxi l'istess is-sistema GonziDCGPN????? Hemm is-saħħa tal-poplu Malti fin-nofs......Bilħaqq insejt li GonziDCGPN qed jibni sptar għall-kura kontra l-kanċer! forsi biex b'hekk iżomm bilanċ! B'tender imarrad u b'oħra jipprova jfejjaq! U ħalluna, kemm taħsbuna boloħ! U dejjem iġġibu l'inkwiet tas-snin 80 fuq Net TV! Aħjar ma ġġibu xejn, għax min kien moderat, ħarraxtuh għal kontikom, sur gonz!!!!!!!!!!!
Majestic Maj
I am not a admirer of Mr Dalli but on this one I side with him, these tobacco people are so powerful they leave no stone unturned not to get it there way what the hell they think we are headless chickens were they got this € 60 million, start to wonder how deep is the corruption within the EU big heads, Mr Barroso people with a little brains will doubt your decision to make Mr Dalli resign
Paul Sammut are right. dawn qed jilabuha tal qaddisin imma kull min jgholli idejh kulhadd ghandu xi jxomm. dalli kien qed jirfes il kallu taghhom u raw kif ghamlu u warbuh min nofs. IL-HUTA IZ ZGHIRA QATT MA BELGHET IL KBIRA.
Who said politics were dull? At least not in Malta. Never a dull moment, in fact, at least insofar as PN exponents are concerned. A new case of corruption or perception of corruption every week! What do we need more? As for that Swede who passed that remark about us being of Mediterranean origins, let him know that Swedish arms manufacturers have been more than once accused of having bribed Asian and African countries to buy their products. These pale-faced, pale-haired Swedes are not as pure as they want to appear.
Li kella tigi Malta tamel livestigazjoni OLAF, thalina minajr ministru fil parlament.
Ma ghandniex għalfejn immorru l-bogħod anzi mibqgħu ġo Malta. Mater Dei mhux l-iżvediżi bnewh bit-taħwid kollu - Skanska. Anke l-PM kien ikkomferma li tagħhom il-flus biex jibnu sptar tal-kanser, u ma bnew xejn. Imbagħad il-BWSC, mhux nordiċi wkoll, kuġini dawn għax Daniżi, qaddisin ukoll. Dawn fuq il-Yellow pages sabuhom qalu. Aħna veru Mediterranji, imma ma aħniex ċwieċ l-anqas, kull min huwa bla dnub jitfa' l-ewwel ġebla, qalilna l-Mulej.
delia alfred
'John Dalli if you are so sure you are innocent like you say you are: WHY DID YOU RESIGN so quickly? ' GL Calleja. Gl Calleja have you been following the case? If not, please note that Dalli was 'forced' to resign by Barroso.
David B
Really the Swedes are as pure as driven snow are they with regards corruption. It's a Mediterranean thing is it ? . An Ernst and Young survey contradicts Mr Hildingsson,Swedes are just as susceptible it seems. If I remember correctly the arms manufacturer Bofors Ab is a Swedish company that was heavily involved in bribery scandals in India . There are lots more evidence of Swedish style corruption in Africa so alluding that the Swedes don't know how to play the bribery game is disengenous to say the least.
Michael MIller
Mr Hildingsson spoke €60 million. Did he mentioned what the companies he represents stand to gain with the posponment of the directive or a revision in their favour? I never knew Dalli as a corrupt man and this is from my own experience. And why Mr Baroso asked for Dalli resignation and not also of the other Commission mentioned in the steel matter and which was raised during the press conference. Even the Commission's spokesperson could not answer that the steel matter? Is it two weights two measures? And what about the racist comment that Mr Dalli is a Mediterranean. Mr Hildingsson said that "Could it be that we in the Nordic countries are less susceptible to this type of business", But we have an email asking Mr Zammit how much he wants to fix a meeting with Dalli. Mr Hildingsson whom were are to believe. I opt Mr Dalli because your business stands to lose billions or euros if the directive passes.
Ryan Borg
This affair is getting more unbelievable than everL. €60,000,000? I wonder what a hitman would have cost!
Benji Salerno
I have never felt particularly well-disposed to those who choose a career in the tobacco industry. Mr Hildingsson from Swedish match has done nothing to change my attitude. In the article above it is stated that “Hildingsson also surmised that Dalli's Mediterranean origins could have undermined his professionalism”. One wonders whether this blatantly racist Hildingsson approached his snus export problem with the perception that a Commissioner with Mediterranean origions would be corruptible. And Swedes and other Nordics are not so squeaky clean as he would lead us believe. Just look at the Saab, Teliasonera and Siemens corruption scandals.
"Hildingsson also surmised that Dalli's Mediterranean origins could have undermined his professionalism: "I don't know how widespread this is. Could it be that we in the Nordic countries are less susceptible to this type of business? This is just unpleasant."" Isn't he an insolent son of a bitch. Is Dr. Tonio Borg going to call the Swedish ambassador and ask for an apology?
Marcus Iwanik
John Dalli if you are so sure you are innocent like you say you are: WHY DID YOU RESIGN so quickly? An innocent man has nothing to hide and you should have stayed on and fight for your rights. Everyone is entitled to protect himself. People accuse other people of a lot of things, but they do not up and resign. Nobody ever said you are innocent or guilty and until proven otherwise we presume you are innocent. On the other hand maybe you do not have enough fate in the EU judicial system, the same EU you represent.
Rita Grioli
Ta l-Imqaret x'inhu bravu.
The cheek of Hildingsson! He "surmised that Mr Dalli's Mediterranean origins undermined his professionalism" and that Nordic countries were less susceptible to corruption..... The Swedes live under a misconception that they are squeaky clean.....of course there is no corruption in Sweden....they export it to other countries. Gosh, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones......
roderick degiorgio
Money is of great importance especially these days.But Mr Hildingsson,what does lot of money mean for you?
Anthony Demanuele
Dalli wont be concerned as he will contest our next election on the sympathy vote ticket-a la JPO after the Mistragate scandal- with a similar outcome -just wait and see!
If I remember correctly, this summer Mr Dalli told the Maltese press that his emailbox had been hacked and that he knew who had been behind it. Wouldn't it be interesting to learn from Mr Dalli who it was?