Dalli opens broadside against PN: Busuttil and Kessler ‘in bed together’

John Dalli has accused his former party, the PN, and Giovanni Kessler, director general of the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, of being in cahoots.

'Simon Busuttil holds up Kessler as a demi-god that can do no wrong' - John Dalli
'Simon Busuttil holds up Kessler as a demi-god that can do no wrong' - John Dalli

Following a turbulent week in which the Dalligate affair resurfaced, the main protagonist of the two-year saga, former EU Commissioner John Dalli, has made various charges against the Nationalist Party, Giovanni Kessler and PN leader, Simon Busuttil.

The combative Dalli has accused his former party, the PN, and Kessler, director general of the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, of being in cahoots, claiming that outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, and the previous administration were out to get him.  

“Simon Busuttil holds up Kessler as a demi-god that can do no wrong. This position solidifies the suspicion that they are in bed together on this,” Dalli told MaltaToday.

He even opened a front on other newspapers and what his former party, which he dubbed ‘GonziPN in its new and old semblance’. “Together with its media, Times of Malta, Malta Independent and Where’s Everybody, [they] all have been coordinated to transmit Kessler’s message and to demean me in any way they could.”

Dalli accused Busuttil of “springing to Kessler’s defence at every opportunity”, and said that claim by Silvio Zammit (a former Dalli canvasser) that a lawyer close to the former PN administration offered him a presidential pardon in exchange for an “untrue” testimony “should not be taken lightly and should be investigated in depth.”

“This is another unambiguous piece of evidence of the collusion between Barroso and GonziPN in this story.”

Silvio Zammit has declined to identify the alleged person who suggested a pardon in return for him to testify against Dalli.

Dalli now insists that “an unholy agreement” existed for Kessler’s report to be used as the basis for his dismissal at the hands of José Manuel Barroso, while the Gonzi administration ensured he would be “vilified in Malta”.

Among these episodes, Dalli singled out the day Kessler descended on his office in Brussels unannounced, informing him that he was under investigation over allegations the OLAF chief had received.

“This was within one hour that [former permanent representative to the EU] Richard Cachia Caruana was in my office, by appointment, to ask me to issue a press release supporting him and damning Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando before the former MP’s complaint (against Cachia Caruana) was heard by the PN’s executive committee. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had acceded to RCC’s request,” Dalli said.

Email exchanges

Dalli so far has been adamant about his allegations that both the Maltese government and the European Commission were fully aware and informed of the OLAF investigation: he cites various email communications which so far remain unconfirmed, except for his consistency in mentioning them.

He said that the former head of the Prime Minister’s internal audit and investigations department, Rita Schembri, “exchanged many emails with OLAF, Antonio Miceli and Joaquin Gonzalez-Herrero-Gonzalez. Attached to these emails was a word file entitled ‘Rapport Dalli’ which was increasing in size. These emails started in July 2012 and stopped on October 5, 2012. Sometimes I wonder whether this was the fraudulent OLAF report being edited by committee.”

Dalli said that while Schembri was present during Kessler’s interrogation of Silvio Zammit on 4 July, 2012, the IAID head had failed to ensure that the interview had a legal basis and Zammit was entitled to prior advice about the interview.

“We now know that Kessler’s legal basis was an invented suspicion that there could have been EU funds’ misappropriation by (Silvio Zammit’s) Peppi’s Pizzeria.”

He said Schembri was later appointed permanent secretary in September 2012 just a few days before Barroso met Gonzi in Malta for the 5+5 meeting.

“Although both were aware of the investigation, both deny having uttered a word between them about it.

“By coincidence on 5 October, 2012, someone from the Commission asks OLAF for a date when they were going to finish the report. Barroso knew that on 22 October, 2012 I was scheduled to launch the Tobacco Products Directive, and Gonzi was ruminating about an election date.”

Dalli said that 10 days later, just two hours before Kessler handed the report to Barroso, an online communication between somebody nicknamed ‘L.O.U.I.S.’ from the Office of the Prime Minister and another person nicknamed ‘Dr GK’ took place.

He said that on 21 October, another email was exchanged in Italian between the same two persons, this time with the inclusion of a person nicknamed ‘R.BEAUX’ also based at Castille, asking for an urgent meeting. 

“This was immediately after it had become obvious that I would be making a strong reaction to my dismissal. On July 19, 2014, a contact who had spoken to Kessler told me among other things that Kessler mentioned conversations with the then Prime Minister,” Dalli said.

Police investigations

Dalli has also accused former police commissioner John Rizzo of having targeted him. “I had to be lynched so that Barroso could say that he made the right decision. I do not have details of the interview between Kessler and [Swedish Match lobbyist] Gayle Kimberley. However by Kessler’s own confession to his contact that were conveyed to me in Brussels on June 19, 2014, there must be something there and Kessler knows that it can land him in trouble.”

Dalli also says that Swedish Match’s Johan Gabrielsson had told Green MEP José Bové that OLAF would have advised him “not to change his version so that he does not disturb the investigation in Malta. Even if all of them knew that they were advising him to perpetuate a lie” – referring to a second meeting between Kimberley and Dalli that never took place, but was allowed to be fanned in the media in the months following the resignation, before the OLAF report was leaked in 2013.

He says John Rizzo later testified in court in the compilation of evidence 

He also highlights Rizzo’s testimony in court, when the former police commissioner “confessed” to political interference in the investigations.

“Rizzo said he wanted to arraign me. When Rizzo was Commissioner of Police, I was available to him both abroad and in Malta, if he wanted to take action. He never did.”

But Giovanni Kessler has also said that Rizzo’s successor, Peter Paul Zammit, has failed to reply to requests to collaborate over a new investigation on Dalli.

Dalli said that he was not aware what these investigations involved. Asked whether these could be related to his trip to the Bahamas in August 2012, when he was accused by a Bahamas landlord of planning to arrange a multi-million transfer, Dalli said: “I do not know what OLAF requested. I was never contacted by the police on this issue. But Peter Paul Zammit said that they had contacted him once.”

Dalli said that he surmised, from his correspondence with OLAF, that the investigations revolve around a question of ethics.

“Do the police go into ethical issues?” he asked. “This could be the reason why the Malta police said there was no legal basis… the Bahamas issue is nothing but a media campaign by the Commission to harass and intimidate me.”

Dalli said that OLAF are yet to reply to letters from his lawyer challenging Kessler over breaches of confidentiality.  “I wonder whether such an investigation is a policy for OLAF, whether they, for example, investigated the relationship between Barroso and Spiro Latsis, the luxury boat trips taken and planned by Barroso, the exemption of the shipping industry from the carbon tax, and the billions in aid given to Greece and most of which went to buttress banks, including those owned by Latsis.”

Dalli will be sending information to justice minister Owen Bonnici over Kessler’s alleged breach of confidentiality ahead of the General Court hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

“Now that Kessler again tried to use this in the run-up to the hearing on 7 July, 2014, and again breached confidentiality, I will be sending this information to the justice minister.”

OLAF breaches

Earlier last week, the head of OLAF’s supervisory committee, Herbert Bosch, complained that the regulator of the anti-fraud agency had been prevented from publishing its opinion on the way the anti-fraud office had conducted the Dalligate investigation.

A leaked version of the full report, showing various breaches of policy and of OLAF legislation, had appeared in 2013.

“This is very serious. It shows that the checks and balances within the Commission do not work and that everything is orchestrated to suit the powers that be. It shows that OLAF does not care about its effrontery towards the the European Parliament since the Supervisory Committee is appointed by MEPs to scrutinise OLAF’s operations and protect citizens’ civil rights.”

Dalli surmised that the decision not to allow the full publication of the Supervisory Committee’s opinion was made so as not to destabilise Barroso during Monday’s hearing.

“It shows that there is something very wrong with the way OLAF conducted its affairs in this case. I have been asking for months for this report to be made public. So have Members of the European Parliament and so have NGOs like Corporate European Observatory.”

But his request to have the Supervisory Committee’s chairman appear as a witness in his case was turned down by the European Court of Justice.

“It’s all very bad news for human rights in the EU. This is bad news for all European citizens.”

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