Update 3 | John Dalli resigns, will challenge OLAF: 'I will defend my name' [full statement]

Maltese entrepreneur used his contacts with John Dalli to try to gain financial advantage from the company in return for seeking to influence possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products.

EU Commissioner John Dalli has informed the President of the European Commission that he will resign.
EU Commissioner John Dalli has informed the President of the European Commission that he will resign.

Updated at 6:50pm and 7:08pm - adds comments by John Dalli.

European Union Commissioner John Dalli has today announced his resignation as a member of the Commission, with immediate effect.

In comments to MaltaToday, Dalli said he will fight to clear his name. "There are no facts or proof over my involvement. They just invented something and it's all circumstantial evidence," Dalli said.

In later comments to TVHEMM on national station TVM, Dalli said he was verbally informed of the OLAF investigation and that the EU-watchdog admitted that he had not participated "in any way" with whatever trading in influence was going on, and that no members of his staff was involved.

"They are basing themselves on circumstantial evidence because they claim I should have known what was going on," Dalli reiterated.

"I am speaking to my lawyers to open the necessary procedure to prove that these conclusions are false. I will keep working so that the efforts I made to review the tobacco directive that was going to propose stronger anti-smoking laws will proceed as schedule."

Dalli denied knowing of any negotiations between Swedish Match and the as yet unnamed Maltese middleman who claimed he could influence EU legislation. Dalli said he knows who this person is, but refused to state the identity of this person.

"I resigned so that I could have a free hand in opposing the allegations made about me," Dalli said, but would not comment on whether EC president Jose Manuel Durao Barroso had forced his resignation.

"I don't want to be a liability to anyone," he went on to say, adding that one should expect further developments in the coming days.

"For me this is a déjà vu," Dalli added, in reference to the 2004 fabricated report which led to his resignation as minister. He insisted that his decision to resign was motivated by his desire "to have a free hand" in his attempts to clear his name.

Meanwhile, New Europe has reported that the European Commission has "refused" to distribute Dalli's press statement.



"This afternoon I was informed verbally by the President of the Commission of the conclusion of an OLAF investigation about an alleged attempt to influence my decisions in respect of the ongoing review of the Tobacco Directive.

"Even though the OLAF report states that there is no evidence of my direct participation in these events and that the decision making process of the Commission Services had not been influenced in any way, OLAF concluded that I was aware of these events basing themselves ONLY on circumstantial evidence.

"I deny categorically that I was in any way aware of any of these events. I am taking all action open to me to ensure that these unfounded conclusions will be proved completely false. I will continue to work so that all efforts made by myself and my services to revise the Tobacco Directive will proceed as planned."

Dalli informed the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of his decision following an investigation by OLAF, the EU's antifraud office, into a complaint made in May 2012 by the tobacco producer, Swedish Match.

The company alleged that a Maltese entrepreneur had used his contacts with Dalli to try to gain financial advantages from the company in return for seeking to influence a possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products, in particular on the EU export ban on snus. As soon as the Commission received the complaint it immediately requested OLAF to investigate.

The OLAF final report was sent to the Commission on 15 October. It found that the Maltese entrepreneur had approached the company using his contacts with Dalli and sought to gain financial advantages in exchange for influence over a possible future legislative proposal on snus. No transaction was concluded between the company and the entrepreneur and no payment was made. The OLAF report did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Dalli but did consider that he was aware of these events.

The OLAF report showed clearly that the European Commission's decision making process and the position of the services concerned has not been affected at all by the matters under investigation.

The final OLAF report and its recommendations are being sent by OLAF to the Attorney General of Malta. It will now be for the Maltese judiciary to decide how to follow up.

After the President informed Dalli about the report received from OLAF, Dalli decided to resign in order to be able to defend his reputation and that of the Commission. Dalli categorically rejects these findings.

Barroso has decided that Vice President Maros Sefcovic will take over the portfolio of Dalli on an interim basis until a new Commissioner of Maltese nationality is appointed in accordance with article 246 (2) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

Giovanni Kessler, Director-General of OLAF will be available in the press room after the midday briefing tomorrow.

His resignation comes two years before the end of his term. A former finance and foreign minister, Dalli lost the race for the PN leadership in 2004 to Lawrence Gonzi.

Shortly after being appointed foreign minister, Dalli resigned as minister in July 2004 after being implicated in a false report by a private investigator of having accepted kickbacks on a medical equipment tender for Mater Dei. He was appointed Lawrence Gonzi's special advisor on economic affairs after he was cleared of the report's implications, while the private investigator was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Dalli was later appointed social policy minister in 2008.

More in Dalligate
I would agree with Pollina, but I would appreciate if HalfEUCitizen exposed fuller details and gave substance to his statement.
Appointing Dalli was the single biggest mistake Gonzi ever did for Malta. The many people in Europe who do not know where Malta is, now know it as the place with a corrupt commissioner. Can we not understand that being a Commissioner for 500 million people is infinitely more important than our squabbles in local politics? We needed a serious person there, not somebody who's past is littered with corruption allegations and who cannot get his head out of the politics of this little island.
Nothing seems to go right for Mr. Dalli. I suspect that his arch enemy is behind this and he is an Ambassador.
Dalli also voted in favour of GM crops - all the while pretending to be against it. Dalli and Gonzi - the best the PN party has to offer!
Kaz serju hafna li ser jibqa' fil-Headlines ta' kull gazzetta fl'Ewropa...Kurrag Sur Dalli ghax is-Sewwa jirbah zgur u li zejt dejjem jitla fil-wicc kif dejjem tela.
Hati jew mhux hati, dik il-gustizzja trid tiddeciedi...haga hija certa...illi John Dalli huwa ragel ghax irrezenja. Jien ma naqbilx ma hafna idejat tieghu u l-fehmiet tieghu imma huwa persuna li huwa doer! Zgur kapaci izjed minn GonziPN illi hu iggranfat mal-poter! Gonzi guarda e impara!
I spy with my little eye something beginning with...'R'(CC)!!!!!!!!
I think that in respect of transparency the name of the Maltese entrepreneur should be revealed either by OLAF, the EU's antifraud office,or by the Maltese Attorney General's Office.
John Dalli ta ezempju car lil GonziPN & Co ta' kif ghandhom isiru l-affarijiet, meta inti tissemma f'xi haga hazina inti ghandek id-dover li tirrenja u mhux toqghod igranfat hemm ma dak l-imbierek siggu. John Dalli kellu hafna poter fl-EU imma xorta ghamel ta' ragel u rrizenja. Proset John inti veru ragel u issa jiena zgur li ser tiggieled din il-qlajja u nispera li min qalaghha jaqla wahda tajba wkoll.
Jiena ma nafx x'inhu il-kas , izda naħseb li John Dalli għad għandu min qed jiġri warajħ biex jagħmillu il-ħsara . Dan qed ngħidu għax jista jkun li b'dak li qal dan l-aħħar , għad hemm xi ħadd li jħobbu ħafna . Kuraġġ Sur Dalli , il-verita għad toħroġ u z-zejt dejjem jitla f'wicc l-ilma .
I smell a rat, or as FD would put it, a long-tailed rat at the top... Let's see... In February Dali is rumoured to possibly challenge Gonzi in what became a one-horse show of an 'election' for the Revered Leader, then in May this complaint is raised that some cuc Malti businessman probably attempted the oldest trick in the Malta-business-playbook by trying to cut a better deal saying "I know so and so" to the wrong person at a Swiss company... Definitely smells like history repeating itself to sideline a potential challenger after the forthcoming total thrashing at the general election polls... I'd say to check into the political affiliations of the person who raised the 'complaint'...
What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. How fitting. One by one they fall. Only one remains and even though he is slick, he will definitely fall if Franco Debono plays his cards right.