Dalli’s and Kimberley’s names not mentioned during Swedish Match lunch

Witness says names of commissioner and Maltese lobbyist were not mentioned during lunch in Stockholm paid by ESTOC’s secretary-general, Inge Delfosse and Swedish Match official Bergstrom Rupini.

The photo of Silvio Zammit (centre) that Mario Mercieca snapped: the image was photocopied and included in the OLAF investigation report
The photo of Silvio Zammit (centre) that Mario Mercieca snapped: the image was photocopied and included in the OLAF investigation report

A man who travelled to Sweden in 2011 with Silvio Zammit - charged with soliciting a bribe from snus manufacturers Swedish Match and the smokeless tobacco ESTOC - has told a court he did not hear the names of John Dalli and Gayle Kimberley mentioned during a lunch in Stockholm with ESTOC secretary-general Inge Delfosse and Swedish Match official Bergstrom Rupini.

Former European Commissioner John Dalli resigned in October 2012 after EC president José Barroso demanded he step down when an investigation by anti-fraud agency OLAF claimed he was aware of Zammit's bribery attempt, in a bid to reverse the EU's retail ban on snus tobacco.

Gayle Kimberly, a European Council official who was on special leave, was engaged as a lobbyist by Swedish Match to approach Dalli  in a bid to reverse the  ban.

Taking the witness stand, a part-time lotto receiver, Mario Mercieca confirmed he was the person who shot a photo of Zammit standing between Delfosse and Rupini outside a Stockholm restaurant.

The two men travelled to Norrkoping on holiday, Mercieca said. He added that Zammit then recieved a phone call while the two men were out shopping, from Bergstrom, inviting him over for lunch. The two men caught a train to Stockholm to meet Delfosse and Bergstrom for lunch.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Chris Busietta, the witness confirmed that there was no mention of Gayle Kimberly, John Dalli or any possible exchange of money. "Lunch lasted about an hour and a half, and Silvio was constantly on the phone but they simply talked to us about snus, and after gave us a gift from Swedish Match."

Mercieca snapped a photo of Zammit with the two officials, prior to catching the taxi back to the Stockholm city centre.

Mercieca said he knew Zammit for the past 40 years and were good friends. He worked for him at his restaurant, but had since left the job. "We travelled together various times to London, Bulgaria, Italy and Sweden. In October 2011 I was going through a rough patch and Silvio proposed a four-day holiday in Sweden to brighten me up."

Prior to meeting Bergstrom and Delfosse, the witness had never heard of snus and did not know what it was.

Questioned if he knew who Gayle Kimberly was, Mercieca said he recognised her from the news photos when Zammit's case hit the news. "I recognised her as one of the people who called at [Zammit's] restaurant. At times she came alone while on other occasions she was accompanied by her boyfriend Iosif Galea," Mercieca said.

The case continues on 13 March.

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