Dalligate | OLAF contrived funds’ allegations to interview Zammit in Malta

Supervisory Committee report questions legality of methods used by OLAF as a pretext to come to Malta and interview Silvio Zammit.

OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler

A report by the watchdog of the EU's anti-fraud agency OLAF into the investigation it carried out on bribery allegations implicating John Dalli, has suggested that EU investigators contrived an "extension" to the investigation, to involve the Office of the Prime Minister's anti-fraud coordination office (Afcos).

A leaked report by the OLAF supervisory committee (SC) seen by MaltaToday shows that OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler used flimsy and limited evidence as a pretext to interview Silvio Zammit in Malta.

READ Supervisory Committee report on Dalli investigation

He first carried out a 40-minute spot-check at his Sliema restaurant - ostensibly over allegations of irregularities in EU-funded projects - before questioning him at the offices of the OPM's Internal Audit and Investigations Department, on allegations that he solicited a €60 million bribe from Swedish Match to get Dalli to lift an EU ban on snus.

In its report, the SC said that Zammit was investigated on the basis of an "external" investigation - therefore, an allegation dealing with the EU's financial interests - when the majority of the questions made to him referred to the allegations of the "internal" investigation, therefore dealing with the bribery allegations.

The suggestion is that OLAF's technique was in breach of EU laws: in the first place, OLAF's investigation selection and review unit said the need to extend the investigation appeared "doubtful" even though it green-lit Kessler's request; secondly, the SC said the decision to extend the investigation was not based on "an accurate or reliable evaluation" of the "limited evidence" at hand; thirdly, instead of opening two separate investigations, Kessler merged the funds' allegations into the Dalli investigation.

By fast-tracking Kessler's request to extend the investigation from an internal to an external investigation, OLAF could use the EU funds allegations as a pretext to invoke the assistance of Malta's Afcos unit - headed by the director of the OPM's internal audit and investigations department (IAID), Rita Schembri; and carry out a spot-check at Peppi's Kiosk before interviewing Zammit at the IAID offices.

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