John Dalli bid for €1 million in damages dismissed by EU court

Former EU Commissioner again denied by EU Court in his third bid to claim damages for his 2012 resignation

Denied: John Dalli
Denied: John Dalli

The European Union’s court of justice has rejected a claim by former European Commissioner John Dalli for €1 million in damages caused by what he said was “unlawful conduct” by the European Commission as a result of the termination of his office.

The General Court of the ECH dismissed the appeal, rejecting all seven arguments invoked by Dalli: six of them related to the conduct of OLAF and the seventh to the findings made by the General Court concerning the alleged damages he suffered.

Dalli was appealing a 2019 judgement by the General Court which dismissed his action for compensation for the harm purportedly suffered  as a result of allegedly illegal conduct of the EC and OLAF when he resigned his post in October 2012.

In 2015, the General Court had already dismissed an action by Dalli to annul the ‘oral decision’ of his 2012 termination from office as well as turning down his claim for €1.9 million in material damages. The ECJ then dismissed an appeal in 2016.

Dalli however brought another action before the General Court for compensation for the damage, in particular non-material damage, caused to him by the alleged unlawful conduct of the Commission, including OLAF, connected with the termination of his office as a Member of the Commission.

The ECJ’s Advocate General had already advised that Dalli’s action should be rejected, ahead of a decision by the General Court.

The AG Maciej Szpunar noted that the objective impartiality of OLAF could not be called into question by the participation of its director, then Giovanni Kessler, in the investigation. Nor does the participation in the investigation of a member of a national authority, call into question OLAF’s impartiality, the AG said.

Dalli resigned his office in September 2012 after he was faced by accusations from then Commission president José Barroso over an OLAF investigation that showed he had been in contact with restaurateur Silvio Zammit when the latter had been soliciting bribes from a Swedish snuff tobacco company seeking the end of a retail ban on its products.

“Dalli has not shown the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of OLAF or the Commission and has not established the existence of a sufficiently direct causal link between the conduct complained off and the alleged damage, or even the existence of the latter,” the General Court said in 2019.

It had also said there must be a sufficiently serious breach of a rule of law intended to confer rights on individuals, to satisfy a complaint on the unlawfulness of the conduct of the institutions.

“Mr Dalli fails to show the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of OLAF or the Commission. By way of an examination for the sake of completeness, the Court concludes that Mr Dalli does not establish the existence of a sufficiently direct causal link between the conduct complained of and the damage alleged, or even the existence of the latter. Mr Dalli’s action is therefore dismissed.”