Dalli wanted Kessler confrontation in committee, Gonzi denies allegation

Updated | Dalli says Kessler told common source that Maltese authorities must have tapes of his interviews with Gayle Kimberley and his conversations with Lawrence Gonzi • Gonzi issues denials

John Dalli
John Dalli

Former European Commissioner John Dalli has declared that he had told journalists in Brussels on 19 June that OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler “might be in trouble” over legal and procedural infringements in the investigation he conducted into the so called Dalligate affair, when in 2012 the Maltese commissioner was forced to resign over allegations that he was aware of a bribe to influence EU tobacco rules.

His statement comes in the wake of a letter by Kessler to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, claiming that he was told by a source on 19 June that Dalli had conveyed the message that he would be arrested if he came to Malta.

READ • Kessler says he was 'warned' that he faced arrest if he came to Malta

Kessler was replying to an invitation to testify in a hearing of the privileges committee, on a breach of privilege complaint raised by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, against Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

Dalli however says that Kessler would have replied to the alleged source that the Maltese authorities, ostensibly, could have the tapes of his interviews with Gayle Kimberley – a suspect in the Dalligate affair who was never charged – and of his conversations with Lawrence Gonzi.

“When I was in Brussels on 19 June to meet my lawyers, I also met some journalists,” Dalli said in his statement.

“I gave my opinion that with the evidence now coming out, Kessler might be in trouble. One of the journalists met me again later and told me that he had given Kessler this information and that Kessler told him that ‘they must have the tapes of the interviews with [Swedish Match lobbyist] Gayle Kimberley and his conversations with the then Prime Minister of Malta’.”

In a statement, Gonzi denied having had contact with Kessler. "I have never had any conversations or any form of contact whether direct or indirect with Mr Kessler, about any subject or topic whatsoever before, during and after my tenure as Prime Minister of Malta."

Dalli has insisted that he wanted to confront Kessler in Malta during the privileges committee hearing, and has published a letter he sent to the Speaker of the House on the matter itself.

“I wanted to confront Kessler in Malta and would not have warned him not to come… I requested the Speaker to allow me to confront Kessler when he is testifying in Malta,” Dalli said.

The former commissioner said the problems he was referring to were “the massive legal and procedural infringements that are now documented and the continued refusal to make public further information that will throw more light on his actions.”

Dalli said Kessler had refused to answer questions put to him by the European Parliament, NGOs and the European Ombudsman on the excuse that bribery charges against Silvio Zammit – the man suspected to have solicited a €60 million bribe from snus producers Swedish Match and smokeless tobacco lobby Estoc – were still being heard in court.

Kessler was also expected to testify in the court case tomorrow, Thursday, although it appears that he has been summonsed late in the day by police prosecutors.

“Now he is refusing to come to testify in the same case, first under the flimsy excuse that he was not advised with enough prior notice, and then as an afterthought, that he is afraid that he will be arrested. The fact is that Kessler is afraid to answer questions. Probably he was informed about my letter from his usual contacts and was afraid to face the issues and to table the documents I requested,” Dalli said.

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