Dalli’s diatribe against PN leader ‘figment of his imagination’ says Busuttil

Opposition leader says John Dalli’s claims that has friendship with OLAF director Giovanni Kessler ‘is a figment of his imagination’

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
28 March 2015, 6:17pm
Giovanni Kessler and John Dalli
Giovanni Kessler and John Dalli
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has hit back at former EU Commissioner John Dalli, after the latter suggested that the PN leader had nurtured a “friendship” with OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler.

In a statement released to the press earlier Saturday, Dalli laid into Busuttil after he was witnessed chatting to Kessler on a flight from Malta to Brussels earlier last week.

“Simon and Giovanni are on a first name basis and close enough for Giovanni to cross the barrier between business and economy class to go and talk to Simon,” Dalli said Saturday.

“For transparency’s sake, Simon should enlighten the Maltese public. How was this relationship struck and nurtured? Whether this friendship was of long duration or was it a relationship that developed recently? Did this close friendship exist when Kessler took upon himself to conduct the investigation of the Swedish Match Allegations?”

Both Dalli and Busuttil have been at loggerheads since the Opposition leader claimed that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had interfered in a police investigation so that charges are not filed against Dalli.

The former commissioner resigned in 2012 after an OLAF investigation claimed he was aware of a €60 million bribe solicited by Silvio Zammit – currently facing bribery charges in court – to reverse a retail ban on snus tobacco for Swedish firm Swedish Match.

Busuttil’s claims were denied by Muscat, who filed a breach of privilege complaint in Parliament after demanding that the accusation be retracted.

“It seems that for John Dalli, betraying his own party and causing untold damage to Malta's reputation in Brussels is not enough. He now wants to fabricate lies about me,” Busuttil said of the former PN minister.

“Let me make this clear. My so-called ‘friendship’ with Giovanni Kessler, the director-general of OLAF, is a figment of John Dalli's imagination. Still less did I ever attend the same ‘clubs’ or ‘groups’ as Mr Kessler, as John Dalli alleges. 

“I spoke to Mr Kessler for the first time ever last week when I happened to take the same flight as him to Brussels. He was returning to Brussels after giving evidence in Court in Malta, whereas I was flying to Brussels to attend the EPP Summit. If John Dalli wants to descend deeper into public embarrassment and continue to live a lie, he is free to do so. But he should not draw me into his lies.”

In his statement, Dalli suggested that Busuttil, a former MEP, knew Kessler at the time he was forced to resign his post in 2012.

Dalli has accused Kessler of perjury when the OLAF chief told a Maltese court in the compilation of evidence against Silvio Zammit that the former commissioner’s aides – Joanna Darmanin and Paola Duarte – said that Dalli suggested reversing the EU’s ban on snus.

Dalli claims this is “false evidence” that Kessler sent to the police without verifying it beforehand. “When Giovanni said that he had sent information to the police, Simon put on his crusading armour and accused the police of breaking European law for not acting on this information.”

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.