Gayle Kimberley denies suggesting Zammit multi-million bribe

Silvio Zammit defence pursues line of questioning implying Gayle Kimberley had suggested €60 million bribe to Swedish Match.

Gayle Kimberley denied that she and co-worker Iosif Galea would have suggested Silvio Zammit with bribe offer.
Gayle Kimberley denied that she and co-worker Iosif Galea would have suggested Silvio Zammit with bribe offer.

Gayle Kimberley, the lobbyist appointed by Swedish Match to secure access to former EU commissioner John Dalli, has denied in court that she had suggested Silvio Zammit to solicit a 60 million euro bribe from Swedish Match.

During her counter-examination in the compilation of evidence against Zammit, charged with bribery, trading in influence and money laundering, Kimberley denied suggestions that she had suggested the amount of money to be solicited from Swedish Match.

Defence lawyer Edward Gatt challenged Kimberley on the notes she supplied to Zammit, for a meeting on 10 February with John Dalli, in which Swedish Match's annual turnover of 500 million euro was listed.

"Their turnover was not big, and they wanted their small status to be taken into consideration ahead of the impact assessment being carried out on the Tobacco Products Directive," Kimberley said, referring to the tobacco rules that Dalli was revising. They included keeping a ban on snus, the snuff tobacco pouches that Swedish Match produce but can only retail in Sweden on derogation of EU law.

Kimberley was then asked, if not explicitly put to her, whether she had suggested the bribe to Zammit.

"You gave Zammit this sum, the turnover, because of what you had suggested Zammit to ask from Swedish Match," Gatt told Kimberley, to which the witness replied that the turnover figure was already in her briefing notes from a previous meeting she had held with Swedish Match officials.

"You did this to solicit the price that you asked for," Gatt said.

"No" - Kimberley replied - "they asked me to reproduce it."

"Did you ask for the 60 million euro - you and Iosif Galea indicated to Zammit the figure of 50 million euro and then 60 million euro," Gatt then stated, referring to Kimberley's co-worker at the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, Galea, also an associated of Silvio Zammit.

"Are you saying we came up with this figure?" Kimberley said, expressing incredulity at the line of questioning. "No. I charged 5,000 euro for my services."

She also denied having suggested opening up an office in Brussels, or even buying some of property in Malta together with Iosif Galea, ostensibly as part of the ruse to solicit a bribe from Swedish Match.

Kimberley is being treated as a witness in the case against Zammit, even though OLAF had suggested that she was an accomplice in the bribery request.

Lawyer Edward Gatt today suggested that there was disagreement between her interrogating officers - former Commissioner of Police John Rizzo, assistant commissioner Michael Cassar and Anthony Cachia, and prosecuting inspector Angelo Gafa - about whether to charge her or not.

OLAF impersonates Spanish ministry official

A new revelation emerging from the testimony, which has now been suspended yet again by the defence, was that OLAF's first contact with Kimberley was carried out in the guise of a phone call from a person impersonating some "Spanish ministry official" asking her whether she would be available to give a public lecture on gaming law.

When she declined, citing that she would be in Troia, Portugal on official business, it turned out that OLAF director Giovanni Kessler was at an adjacent hotel awaiting her. In fact her interview started after 9am, after breakfast, and lasted for the next seven hours. At 2:30pm, Kessler took the witness out for lunch.

Meeting with Silvio Zammit

Kimberley also said today that she knew Zammit from his interest in the lotto booths sector, as well as having carried out some form of canvassing for him when he contested the elections for the Sliema local council.

She said Zammit did not display "an in-depth knowledge of EU law, but had a certain knowledge" of the ban on snus, and that Swedish Match considered him as the person able to secure a meeting with John Dalli.

Kimberley also confirmed that a second meeting with John Dalli, scheduled for 10 February 2012, never occurred - at least, she was not present for the said meeting.

"I had provided him with the bullet points of the 'Meeting' memo... we discussed this document. I don't remember him jotting down any notes. I was meant to attend this meeting that SZ was organizing with Dalli. I don't know if it happened.

"Swedish Match wanted to keep me on a permanent retainer, to liaise directly with a technical person from the Cabinet... and not bog the Commissioner down with technical detail."

She denied that her claims to Swedish Match public affairs director Johan Gabrielsson about the meeting, in which she claimed that Zammit or Dalli floated the suggestion of a monetary gift to have the ban on snus lifted, were intended to justify her services to the Swedish firm.

"The price (her 5,000 euro fee) was pretty reasonable compared to the level of work I did. We spent a whole day of briefing and spent two weeks of my Christmas holidays studying the legal brief. I prepared the presentation and kept following up the issue with Gabrielsson, and they asked me to attend a second meeting with Dalli. I attended one meeting (6 January), which lasted maybe 35 minutes. This was the only meeting I attended. I was present, as well as Dalli, Zammit and Iosif Galea."

Kimberley also declared that Dalli was skeptical about Swedish Match's scientific argument to have the ban on snus lifted. "I never got the impression that his position on snus had ever changed. He was neither pro, not anti."

She said that when she claimed she had direct access to Dalli, it meant that Zammit could forward her emails on to the Commissioner.

Kimberley also claimed that Dalli would have told Zammit that France was against, or difficult about lifting the snus ban.

She said her seven-hour interrogation was summarised to a brief amount of pages, as evidenced in the now-leaked OLAF report, because Kessler would dictate to his secretary what to right at regular intervals.

At her second interview, held at the Internal Audit and Investigations Department in Valletta, Kessler had to interrupt the interrogation because he had to fly back to Brussels, ostensibly to meet his wife as she was flying in to Belgium, Kimberley said.

Her third interview was held a week later in Brussels, which Kimberley says she suggested.

She also said that it was Kessler who, during their lunch at the first interview in Portugal, suggested that she be "wary of Dalli and Zammit" - a warning he repeated on the telephone.

"I was torn... OLAF are serious investigators and people of a certain integrity. At lunch he told me I had to be afraid of DAlli and Zammit, and said that he was 'Italian... I know how these things work'. I had a young child and someone is telling me to fear a Commissioner and a deputy mayor. How was I not to believe him?"