Green MEP says OLAF ‘messed up completely’ in Dalligate investigation

Belgian judicial authorities inquiry opened after complaint filed by John Dalli against Swedish Match.

Green MEP José Bové
Green MEP José Bové

Green MEP José Bové has accused the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF of having "completely messed up" in its investigation on bribery allegations forwarded by the tobacco industry.

The investigation led to the forced resignation of European Commissioner John Dalli. The Belgian authorities have now opened an inquiry following a complaint filed by the Maltese commissioner.

Dalli was forced to resign by European Commissioner José Barroso on the strength of a covering letter to the OLAF investigation, which however stated it had no direct evidence but circumstantial evidence that Dalli was aware of a €60 million bribe to reverse the EU ban on smokeless tobacco.

Bové said the full OLAF report showed the investigation was not able to come up with decisive evidence that Dalli was directly involved in the trading of influence.

OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler is facing resignation calls over his handling of the Dalli case. In turn, Kessler invited his accusers and critics to report the alleged illegalities of the investigation to the European Court of Justice.

Following calls of foul play by several MEPs, European Parliament president Martin Schultz has now asked Green MEPs Bart Staes and José Bové and MEP Ingeborg Grässle, of the European People's Party, to sit for interviews with the Belgian prosecutor dealing with the Dalli inquiry.

"I am grateful to be able to participate in this judicial inquiry and to answer to questions of the magistrate of the judicial authorities in Brussels," Bové said.

"I'm especially keen to clarify questions on the registration of the talks I have had with two members of the management of Swedish Match. During this meeting they stated that 'they had withheld elements à charge against Dalli, while OLAF knew perfectly well that these elements were false'. The reason for this was 'not to disturb the judicial inquiry going on in Malta." 

On his part, Staes, who together with Bové had come to Malta to speak about their belief that the OLAF investigation was replete with shortcomings and irregularities, accused OLAF of ignoring fundamental rights and procedures.

"It is unacceptable that a European institution as OLAF does not respect fundamental rights and procedures, as is the case in the Dalli-affair. Kessler simply keeps denying facts and says everything is fine. His modus operandi is unacceptable and luckily more and more MEP's from other political groups begin to publicly confirmed this," Staes said.

Reacting to Kessler's invitation to report the alleged illegalities of the investigation to the European Court of Justice, Staes said this was "simply outrageous".

"A Director-General of OLAF should do anything he can to prevent breaches of European law, such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Besides the investigation now by the Belgian judiciary, we can be sure that the Court of Justice in Luxembourg will rule in Dalli's favour," Staes said.

He argued that the Supervisory Committee had indicated this, and would result in Dalli being granted the €2 million in compensation.

"I propose that not EU's tax payers pay this bill, but Barroso himself," he said.

Staes said the logical step forward was for general Catherine Day, Barroso and the Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, responsible for OLAF, to also attend a hearing of  the Committee of Budgetary Control to answer in all transparency the mounting pile of questions on this affair. 

"Kessler showed today again that he is not worthy in leading an important European institution like OLAF. By side-lining the Surveillance Committee of OLAF, he shows he is lacking basic democratic skills," Bové said.

"Barroso still has a lot to answer for and must shoulder responsibility for his actions. His argument that he had no other option than to force Dalli to resign is becoming somehow ridiculous and an insult for the European Parliament."

More in Dalligate
Joseph Borg
Unless there is international pressure and this case is made known to the international media, it will still be kept low profile.
Manuel Scicluna
Barroso is over a barrel. He should do the decent thing and resign- before he is kicked out in disgrace.

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