MaltaToday calls for investigation into OLAF report

Neither OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler nor the Malta police under the former administration have been anxious to entertain the requests from members of the European Parliament and the international and local media for calls to publish the OLAF report.

When, last week, persistent calls were made for Kessler to resign by a number of MEPs, Kessler issued a statement asking the Maltese authorities to publish the report.

Kessler's work at OLAF was described in very clear terms as "rotten."

From the very first day, when Giovanni Kessler announced his findings in a press conference and used the infamous words: "circumstantial evidence" about John Dalli, he not only blemished the career of this political heavyweight but also effectively ruined it.

Let us be clear: it was EU President Barroso himself who stated "there is no conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Dalli either as the instigator or as mastermind of the operation of requesting money in exchange for the political services as expressed by Silvio Zammit."

Yet this was not enough to stop the EU president for calling on Dalli to resign.

Kessler had good reason to be overzealous in his investigation. He not only was interested in uplifting OLAF's perception in the EU institutions, but more importantly he had higher hopes for his career.

He may have overstepped his chances in many ways.

His approach to the whole investigation has been put into serious question. He first of all carried on telephone tapping when he had no authority to do so, he held interrogations in Malta when he also had no authority to do so, interrogated Gayle Kimberley as a witness and then wined and dined her. OLAF or Kessler, but it is not clear who, told Gabriellson to lie and state that there had been two meetings with Gayle Kimberley and John Dalli, when in fact there had been one. These and other shortcomings were also listed in the report of the Supervisory Committee, which said that Kessler's direct and personal participation in the probe constituted a conflict of interest "in which an objective assessment of OLAF's measures was not possible anymore."

The Supervisory Committee even accused Kessler's office of conducting unlawful interrogations in Malta, intercepting a private telephone conversation, involving the help of Maltese authorities without a proper legal basis and overlooking or rushing checks on the legality of its actions in order to accelerate the outcome.

One particular aspect which definitely raised eyebrows was the haste with which the OLAF chief decided to launch an investigation following the complaint filed by Swedish Match.

It transpired that after receiving a letter on 25 May 2012 at 8:15pm from the European Commission's secretary general, Kessler launched the investigation within 24 hours.

The OLAF report - published in its entirety in our online edition and described in detail in the special report in today's print edition - is only part of the story. The political story remains a big question mark. We now know that part of the interrogation and investigation took place in Malta with the help of Rita Schembri, who was known to be close to a former EU permanent representative, Richard Cachia Caruana (not at all fond of John Dalli) and former principal civil servant Godwin Grima. Schembri strangely also found her way into becoming a member of the Supervisory Committee overseeing OLAF.

The role of the disgraced Permanent Secretary and suspended civil servant Rita Schembri as head of AFCOS (the Anti-fraud Coordinating Service) in Malta is also questionable. Today's edition also reports that Rita Schembri, under serious investigation, has revealed that she was taking orders from third parties.

Our sister newspaper, Illum, has reported that there was political pressure on the police before December of last year to prosecute Dalli. It was reported that Castille, that is the office of former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, put pressure on the police force to take action against Dalli.

When it was abundantly clear from the OLAF report that there was no evidence to substantiate any wrongdoing, the Maltese police under John Rizzo continued to insist they had a case.

It is also unclear why the Maltese police in the last administration completely ignored Gayle Kimberley in spite of what was stated in the OLAF report.

Indeed it was very clear at the time that the police were divided in their approach to the Dalli case, and there were also some very clear objections, from some senior police officers, to a very top decision to tap Dalli's telephone after 15 October 2012.

One will also have to see what role the Attorney General, Peter Grech, had to play in this saga. And why the PM's office in Castille was so excited about nailing Dalli.

Apparently John Dalli occupying the post of EU Commissioner was still considered a political threat to Lawrence Gonzi's PN leadership, even though the latter never had any intention of giving up the leadership in spite of his abysmal ratings in the polls.

Dalli's fall from grace led to his deleterious state of health and his exclusion from any political future in the PN. But the recent chain of events may show once and for all that the resolve of this heavyweight of Nationalist politics is not exhausted.

What is clear is that justice needs to be done expeditiously to undo all the damage that was inflicted on those individuals who were judged by the media circus and political spin.

The whole episode has also uncovered the grave state of affairs in many EU institutions, namely the issue of revolving doors and the blatant conflict of interest and lack of transparency in much of the EU's operations.

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