Police commissioner testifies in €60m snus bribery: Dalli associate wanted initial €10,000 cash

Former European Commissioner John Dalli charged over alleged €60 million bribery to overturn EU-wide ban on smokeless tobacco

Former European Commissioner John Dalli (Photo:James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Former European Commissioner John Dalli (Photo:James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

John Dalli’s associates had allegedly asked for €10,000 in cash as a first payment to overturn a ban in the European Union on snus, Angelo Gafá testified on Wednesday.

“They had been asked to pay €10,000 in cash to Dalli as first payment and subsequently much larger payments for the ban on snus to be lifted,” Gafá told the court.

Former European Commissioner John Dalli has been charged with trading in influence and bribery in connection with an alleged €60 million bribery bid in 2011/12, aimed at overturning an EU-wide ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco, during Dalli’s tenure as European Commissioner.

In testimony lasting nearly three hours, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafá gave magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo an exhaustively detailed account of the investigation which led to the former European Commissioner being charged in connection with the alleged €60 million bribe which prosecutors say was aimed changing the Tobacco Directive, during the time when Dalli occupied the post of EU health commissioner.

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafá who had investigated the case whilst still an inspector, testified about the investigation and its findings. Dalli, a former Nationalist Party minister, was EU health commissioner between 2010 and 2012.

The bribery attempt had cost former European commissioner John Dalli his place in the Brussels executive in 2012. The case is related to that of Silvio Zammit, who had been a canvasser for Dalli. An EU anti-fraud investigation by OLAF had found circumstantial evidence that Zammit had been calling Dalli on the phone in between conversations with snus producer Swedish Match and the European smokeless tobacco lobby Estoc. Zammit had been approached by an Estoc consultant, Maltese lawyer Gayle Kimberley, to obtain access to Dalli in a bid to lift a retail ban on snus, a chewable form of tobacco.

But while Zammit was charged in 2012, the case against Dalli only started today.

Gafá testified for around three hours before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo on Wednesday, quoting at great length from recorded phone calls, email correspondence and an investigation carried out by EU anti-fraud office OLAF involving Dalli, his former canvasser Silvio Zammit, representatives of snus lobby ESTOC and tobacco companies.

One of Dalli's associates at the time had allegedly asked for a €60 million bribe from a tobacco company to help overturn a ban in the EU on snus, according to Gafá. "[ESTOC Secretary] Inge Delfosse explained that she found it strange that after the first phone call from Zammit...he had claimed that he could lift the ban on Snus."

“They had been asked to pay €10,000 in cash to Dalli as first payment and subsequently much larger payments for the ban on snus to be lifted,” Gafa said.

At the end of the lengthy sitting, Gafa' explained to the court that after meeting and discussing the case with the Attorney General, it had been concluded that Zammit and Dalli be arraigned separately on charges of trading in influence and bribery. Zammit was charged in 2012. His case is still ongoing.

"I have a note in the case file where the Commissioner of Police of the time had instructed us to wait for the conclusion of proceedings against Silvio Zammit before pressing charges against Dalli," Gafa told the court today.

The compilation of evidence against Zammit is still ongoing, after the Constitutional Court had, in March last year, overturned a previous decision which had declared the evidence against Zammit closed.

Dalli had been forced to step down from the European Commission in 2012 as a result of this case, after an investigation by OLAF - the EU's anti-fraud office, had uncovered the bribery attempt.

He was arraigned by summons before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo this afternoon, assisted by lawyers Stephen Tonna Lowell and Stefano Filletti.

The case continues on February 18th when Commissioner Gafa’ is expected to be cross-examined by the defence.

15:31 That's all from us today. Thank you for following. Luke Vella
15:29 Court adjourns the case to 18 February at 9am. Luke Vella
15:29 "We want one thing. That the case starts and finishes. Let us not hear repetition of 'he said, she said'," submits the lawyer. Luke Vella
15:28 Tonna Lowell says he does't want delays in presenting the evidence, like the Silvio Zammit case. Luke Vella
15:28 Tonna Lowell points out that all that was heard today about John Dalli was hearsay, except what Dalli had told the police himself. Luke Vella
15:26 Agius Bonnici tells the court that former Commissioner, Rizzo, was going to testify today. Luke Vella
15:26 The prosecution asks the court to appoint a transcriber to transcribe the contents of cassettes which are exhibited. Luke Vella
15:25 Gafa steps down from the witness stand. Luke Vella
15:25 Further cross-examination is reserved. Luke Vella
15:25 The prosecution is asked to confirm that they are the same documents exhibited in the other proceedings. Luke Vella
15:24 The magistrate is given a copy of these documents by AG lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici. Luke Vella
15:23 Tonna Lowell asks Gafa to confirm the documents he exhibited. He is told they were exhibited by the registrar of courts in other proceedings. Luke Vella
15:23 Gafa finishes his testimony. Luke Vella
15:22 “In 2021 a decision had been taken with the Attorney General, that Dalli be charged,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:21 Gafa had subsequently moved to the security service, and the case was handed over to Jonathan Ferris and later Yvonne Farrugia. Farrugia was chosen to go to EPO. The case was transferred to Inspector Rennie Stivala, who was later assigned to the Asset Recovery Bureau. The case was assigned to inspector Anthony Scerri. Luke Vella
15:19 "I have a note in the file where the Commissioner of Police at the time had instructed that we wait for the conclusion of proceedings against Silvio Zammit before pressing charges against Dalli," Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:19 “In that interview he had attacked Catherine Day who he alleged was making a lot of pressure against the directive.” Luke Vella
15:19 “He had told the police that he was completely against tobacco consumption and said that Barroso had tried to stop him from proceedings with the tobacco directive,” Gafa adds. Luke Vella
15:17 Dalli was subsequently questioned, but not under caution, Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:17 "I had explained that Dalli testified before the Belgian police for over three and a half hours, and appeared fit to face charges in Malta. I applied for a warrant of arrest against Dalli," Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:16 “Dalli's lawyer, Steven Tonna Lowell was in correspondence with the police, saying that Dalli had been seeking medical treatment abroad.” Luke Vella
15:15 Gafa' concludes, telling the magistrate that after meeting with the Attorney General it was concluded that Zammit and Dalli be arraigned separately on charges of trading in influence and bribery. Zammit was charged in 2012. Luke Vella
15:15 “Charles Saliba and Bajada work for BAT Malta. They had told the police that they had asked for a meeting with Dalli over ESTOC. Silvio Zammit had asked for an agenda beforehand and this had been provided. Saliba had denied money being mentioned in the meeting,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:13 “Charles Saliba and Bajada work for BAT Malta. They had told the police that they had asked for a meeting with Dalli over ESTOC. Silvio Zammit had asked for an agenda beforehand and this had been provided.” Luke Vella
15:13 Gafa says he had spoken to Dalli after 2012, following the OLAF questioning. “Dalli had claimed that there were missing emails and had mentioned a certain Kim Bajada and her boss Chris Saliba who had wanted to meet with Dalli. The meeting was about Snus and some days later Thomas Hammergren had arrived in Malta to meet Dalli.” Luke Vella
15:10 “Kimberly had been angry at Silvio Zammit. Zammit had access to her email account as had Josef Galea.” Luke Vella
15:10 “Kimberly might have consumed some alcohol before her interview with OLAF. However, OLAF said she had been alerted and asked for corrections to the transcript,” Gafa goes on. Luke Vella
15:09 The commissioner says he is "nearly finished" as the court offered a 15 minutes break. Luke Vella
15:08 “The media pressure and seriousness of the allegations had forced him to act,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
15:03 Gafa quotes Kessler as saying "this was like a big bomb, exploding inside the commission" Luke Vella
14:56 Dalli nods as the court is told that Zammit had his personal mobile phone number, and shakes his head. Luke Vella
14:55 “Kimberly had reported back to Swedish Match that it did not appear that Dalli and cabinet had much knowledge about Snus and had asked her to assist as required. Kimberly had described Zammit as a gateway to John Dalli.” Luke Vella
14:55 “Kimberly had said, ‘We do not pay for changes in legislation, we pay for consultation services.’” Luke Vella
14:50 Dalli complains to his lawyers, about the length of the testimony. Luke Vella
14:47 Fatigue is setting in. Gafa is speaking in disjointed sentences. Attention to the testimony is hardly rapt at this point, with even the magistrate looking at her phone. Luke Vella
14:46 “On the instructions of OLAF, Delfosse had called Zammit with scripted questions. Zammit was very cautious in the call however and she said he probably suspected something, as he used words he had never used before such as 'transparent'". Luke Vella
14:45 Gafa says it was "beyond impossible" for ESTOC to issue all that money. “She told the police she needed clearance from the Board of Directors to issue amounts of over €5,000.” Luke Vella
14:44 “Delfosse denied being offered money by Zammit or that he had suggested it. She told the police that if Zammit had tried to suggest that, she never got it.” Luke Vella
14:43 Gafa adds that in the subsequent phone call, Zammit said his boss would meet with her boss. Luke Vella
14:42 "Inge Delfosse explained that she found it strange that after the first phone call from Zammit...he had said that he could lift the ban on Snus." Luke Vella
14:41 “She added that what Zammit was offering was not lobbying and confirmed that Zammit had asked for a €10 million fee.” Luke Vella
14:40 “She explained that she had heard rumours in Brussels that there were behind the scenes machinations against Dalli,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
14:40 In the correspondence Delfosse passed on to the police after her interview in Brussels, it emerged that a near-identical email was sent to Thomas Hammergren's personal address titled "lift up the ban." Luke Vella
14:38 “Delfosse, a Belgian, had moved back to Belgium and Zammit had re-established contact with her in 2012 with an email about something ‘very interesting’ to talk about,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
14:37 Dalli mutters some words under his breath, as Gafa' continues to testify. Luke Vella
14:37 “In one of them, Zammit tells Delfosse that he had spoken to Dalli, who had understood her point and ‘as the type of commissioner who was ready to stick his neck out for such causes.’ Dalli was not afraid to take risks, he said, pointing to the GMO case.” Luke Vella
14:37 Till November 2011, there were a number of phone calls and emails exchanged between Zammit and Delfosse, according to Gafa. Luke Vella
14:36 “The two had lunch in Stockholm. During this meeting, Zammit made reference to Commissioner Dalli by name.” Luke Vella
14:36 “She had received an email from Silvio Zammit addressed to Thomas Hammergren and had informed Zammit that Hammergren was no longer working there. She understood that Zammit was the same person who had met with Hammergren in the past.” Luke Vella
14:35 “Gayle Kimberly was appointed for her expertise and her access to Dalli, the representative told the police. Inge Delfosse was also spoken to by the police, confirming her statement to OLAF. She shared an office with Swedish match's Gabriellsson.” Luke Vella
14:33 Silvio Zammit had made a similar proposal for payment to Delfosse's company, says Gafa. “The Swedish government was made aware and had made a report to the European Commission on the issue.” Luke Vella
14:32 “They had been asked to pay €10,000 in cash to Dalli as first payment and subsequently much larger payments for the ban on snus to be lifted,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
14:31 "Swedish Match representative had informed them that ESTOC had a board of directors. At the time the chairman was a Swedish match representative. In 2010, the chairman was Thomas Hammergren, who worked for BAT." Luke Vella
14:27 “He was unable to recall whether during the meal, Zammit had in fact made or received any phone calls.” Gafa says he had gone to Brussels with Commissioner Rizzo and other officers to meet Delfosse, Swedish Match and OLAF representatives. Luke Vella
14:25 "We had spoken to a certain Mario Merceica, a friend and employee of Zammit, who confirmed that he had gone with him to Sweden where they met two women, one of whom was Inge Delfosse, and had lunch. The discussion was about Snus," Gafa says. Luke Vella
14:24 “Investigations showed that Josef Galea had informed Silvio Zammit, not Gayle Kimberly,” reads the Commissioner. Luke Vella
14:24 According to Gafa, Dalli told investigators he had not broken off contact with Zammit after he was questioned, "in order to try and obtain further information from him". Luke Vella
14:21 Gafa adds Dalli had admitted as much to the police, saying he had been made aware of the investigations beforehand. “Zammit had called OLAF ‘bluffers’, according to Dalli.” Luke Vella
14:20 “It appears that Dalli was very well aware of the OLAF investigations even before being sent for by them, despite denying this to OLAF.” Luke Vella
14:19 Gafa says Dalli had a dinner with Barroso that night, but did not inform him of the impending trouble. "Dalli admitted that in hindsight this had been a mistake on his part." Luke Vella
14:19 “During the interview with the police, Dalli told interrogators that not only had he seen the OLAF reports, but had a 15-minute phone call with Silvio Zammit in which he had been warned of the OLAF investigations.” Luke Vella
14:18 "Whilst insisting he had no information about OLAF's accusations, Dalli was informed that OLAF had contacted him beforehand. He said this was true, but nowhere in the report was it suggested that he resign," Gafa reads. Luke Vella
14:14 According to Gafa, Dalli had insisted that it was "all a setup" by ESTOC, to sully his reputation and have him removed from European Commissioner. Luke Vella
14:13 “He denied speaking about the directive or being under any pressure from Zammit or being asked to conduct any business on his behalf.” Luke Vella
14:12 Gafa says Dalli told OLAF he could not recall these phone calls, other than Zammit calling him several times over the privatisation of the Malta lottery, which was happening at the time. Luke Vella
14:11 “In a 12 minute phone call, briefly mentioned in the OLAF report, OLAF had asked Inge Delfosse to call Zammit, but the report stated that it did not provide any actionable information,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
14:11 The Commissioner adds that Giovanni Kessler had informed the Commission that he was ‘under pressure from all sides’ but did not elaborate on where this pressure was coming from. Dalli was subsequently asked what had taken place between him and the Snus lobby groups. Luke Vella
14:10 “After his resignation in 2012, Dalli pointed out that the tobacco directive was suspended. Dalli had made the observation that ‘it could have saved many lives’”. Luke Vella
14:09 Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa is still reading from his notes. Luke Vella
14:09 “Dalli explained that while meetings did not lead to changes in the directives, they left the door open to scientific studies, challenging the studies naming snus as a health risk.” Luke Vella
14:05 The Commissioner explains Dalli had confirmed meeting Zammit at his office to discuss Zammit's PN candidature for local council elections. “Dalli told police that France was not going to support the removal of the ban on snus. He explained that UK, Germany and France were issuing stronger directives than that which Dalli's directorate was planning on proposing.” Luke Vella
14:04 “He also denied not wanting Kimberly to attend a meeting between him and Silvio Zammit. After February he had not discussed snus ever again with Silvio Zammit.Dalli had asked why a Swedish company would appoint a Maltese representative (Kimberly) if not to reach out to him.” Luke Vella
14:04 Gafa says Dalli had told the police that he might have made a reference to GMO, but in the context of his position on science-backed decisions. He says Dalli had denied the majority of the conclusions reached by Gayle Kimberly. Luke Vella
14:03 “Dalli added that he had explained his position on snus to a female lawyer, who attended the meeting. His position was the same as what he had stated to the Times in an interview at the time,” Gafa continues. “Dali had reportedly said he was ‘willing to take unpopular decisions as long as science supported them’” Luke Vella
14:01 “Thomas Hamegran had claimed that he had instructions from the president of the European Commission not to meet with tobacco industry representatives. Dalli denied this.” Luke Vella
13:59 Gafa says Dalli had thought this person was a lawyer and passed on two PWC reports, emphasising the benefits of smokeless tobacco on the economy. “He had told investigators that he didn't remember much about the meeting as it was not an important one.” Luke Vella
13:59 “Dalli began by saying he never had a copy of the OLAF report and denied participating in corrupt activities. Zammit had told him that a foreign person wanted to meet him. A meeting was held at a hotel and lasted around 20 minutes.” Luke Vella
13:58 “Dalli was finally questioned in 2012 at the Police Headquarters, where he was presented with a search and arrest warrant. His interview was recorded audio visually. He was given his rights at law and refused to be assisted by a lawyer,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
13:51 In an email dated 5 March 2012, Kimberly had asked Zammit to approach BAT (British American Tobacco) to find new clients for packaging. Asked how Inge Delfosse was involved, she had said a third party had been instructed by Zammit to speak to her. Luke Vella
13:49 “During his interview, the cybercrime unit was analysing his devices. They found an email from Kimberly to Zammit. He released a statement, claiming that what he did was not done in his name, but insisted that he had mentioned everyone involved. When challenged about this and asked to clarify, Zammit had withdrawn his statement,” Gafa adds. Luke Vella
13:48 Gafa says Zammit insisted that the truth would emerge in court and added that his computer contained information, which would make the situation much clearer, but again would not elaborate. Luke Vella
13:47 “Devices from the LGA (Lotteries and Gaming Authority) were also examined. Zammit again opted for silence when questioned about them. The next day, however, he broke his silence and said the truth was very far from OLAF's findings. He refused to elaborate further however.” Luke Vella
13:45 “Searches were carried out and documents and devices seized. Handwriting comparisons were carried out with Zammit's handwriting and notes given to OLAF by Kimberly. Zammit had admitted to OLAF that he had written it himself,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
13:44 Gafa adds that Silvio Zammit was subsequently interrogated and had refused to answer most questions. Zammit had challenged the investigators to ask him in court, dismissing the Olaf allegations as "theatrics". Luke Vella
13:41 “Mr. Josef Galea had initially said that €1 million were to be allocated to Kimberly and the rest to Dalli, but later retracted this part of his statement after Kimberly denied the allegation.” Luke Vella
13:39 However, Gayle Kimberly did not want to tell the police who was behind the alleged threats, says Gafa. Luke Vella
13:38 “Gayle Kimberly, during her police interview, was asked what her share of the €60 million was. She insisted that she didn't take anything and was only interested in a retainer with Swedish Match. She claimed to have been threatened and blackmailed in connection with this case. OLAF had also asked her to be careful about her safety.” Luke Vella
13:36 “She was told that Dalli's political days were numbered. Zammit requested the sum of €60 million form Gabrielsson in Kimberly's presence at Peppi's Kiosk in Sliema. This would generate large returns for Swedish Match, he said. The first 10 million were to be paid to Dalli and the company officials at a meeting organised anywhere in the world,” says Gafa. Luke Vella
13:35 Gafa says that the lifting of the ban was no longer a cause but Zammit wanted to make money out of it. "I'm tired of making money for other people," Zammit had said. Luke Vella
13:34 “Zammit asked Kimberly to meet him at Peppi Kiosk. He there told her that Dalli was not intending to appoint anyone to deal with the Snus negotiations, but said he would take care of them personally. According to Kimberly, Zammit had indicated the company's sales would increase after the ban was lifted,” Gafa says. Luke Vella
13:32 Gafa says another meeting was set for February but had to be called off at the last minute. “Kimberly explained that Swedish match weren't only after a lifting of the snus ban, but wanted a regulated market where customers would have access to the best possible products.” Luke Vella
13:31 He says Kimberly had presented her case to Dalli on a legal, social economic perspective. Dalli had reacted by saying that it would raise a furor with the anti-tobacco lobby. “Her impression was that Dalli was paying attention but gave her no idea of what he would do. He stressed the importance of science-based reports.” Luke Vella
13:30 “Kimberly said she only met Dalli once, at his Portomaso office and had been well briefed on the product by Gabrielsson and other Swedish match representatives,” Gafa adds. Luke Vella
13:30 "She had mentioned Gabrielsson to him." Luke Vella
13:29 “She knew Josef Galea, an MGA employee close to Zammit, and had an extramarital relationship with him”, Gafa says. Luke Vella
13:28 He says she had accepted and asked for a €5,000 consultancy fee. He adds that at the time Kimberly was working with the MGA but had resigned later that year for health reasons. Luke Vella
13:28 “Gayle Kimberly said she was a lawyer with a firm, and knew the wife of Gabriellson, who subsequently joined Swedish Match. He had contacted her and asked her whether she was interested in setting up meetings for him with Dalli in connection with the snus,” Gafa says Luke Vella
13:26 Gafa' says searches were carried out and people were interrogated as part of the investigation. Luke Vella
13:26 The OLAF report concluded that there were circumstances which showed that Dalli might have been aware of what Zammit was doing and attempting to make financial gain, Gafa says. Therefore, criminal proceedings for corruption were triggered. Luke Vella
13:25 On 21 May 2012, Swedish Match had informed the European Commission Luke Vella
13:25 The phone calls which are recorded mention "John" several times and Silvio Zammit speaks in the plural "tell us where you want to do it." On payment, "this is the price he is asking." OLAF had concluded that Zammit was not acting on his own behalf, as he had insisted. Luke Vella
13:24 Gafa says Silvio Zammit had allegedly requested 10 million from Inge Delfosse to arrange a meeting between "my boss and your boss" over the lifting of the ban on Snus. Delfosse had replied that she could not accept and had to speak to her superiors. Luke Vella
13:22 Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa is testifying Luke Vella
13:21 Our senior court report Matthew Agius is in court following the proceedings. Luke Vella