Dalligate suspect files Belgian criminal complaint

Silvio Zammit, who stands charged with soliciting bribes, wants snus lobbyist investigated over illegal phone recording

Silvio Zammit
Silvio Zammit

Silvio Zammit has renewed his call for a police investigation into illegal phone-tapping by the secretary-general of the European Smokeless Tobacco Council, by filing a criminal complaint on the matter with the Belgian police.

Zammit stands accused in a Maltese court of law of having solicited bribes of €50 million and €10 million from Swedish Match and ESTOC, respectively, by creating the impression that John Dalli, the then-commissioner for health, could reverse the EU’s ban on snus, the smokeless tobacco that Swedish Match produces.

Last Sunday, lawyer Edward Gatt, who is acting as defence counsel to Silvio Zammit, joined his client in Belgium and accompanied Zammit as he filed a formal request that Belgian district police launch an investigation into phone tapping and prosecute ESTOC secretary-general Inge Delfosse.

The development comes after the partial lifting of OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler's immunity – partial as it only lifted the immunity with respect to the phone-tapping charge. Zammit is asking for her to be interviewed about the way she obtained a recorded phone call with him, as she had been ordered to do so by Kessler, who had previously enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

This is the same issue about which OLAF had removed Kessler’s immunity.

In the complaint, Zammit explains how on 29 March 2012 at 3:18pm, he had spoken to Delfosse several times on the phone.

When he was investigated by OLAF – which was investigating the allegation of bribery filed by Swedish Match with the European Commission’s secretary-general –  he was informed that Delfosse had recorded this phone-call, an act which Zammit says is illegal in Belgium.

“I insist that she is interviewed about the way she obtained my phone call... I have tried to contact several services and the federal police of Belgium have notified me that I am to go to a police station of my choosing to make a complaint.”

Delfosse is the last witness in the Maltese case against Zammit, and has put off attending several times as the evidence may incriminate her.

The Belgian public prosecutor is said to be concerned about Kessler’s handling of witnesses and the taping of a telephone conversation with Zammit.

Dalli was forced to resign from his post as EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy four years ago, after a probe led by Kessler had linked him to a tobacco lobbyist at a time when the EU was clamping down on smoking and the tobacco industry.

The OLAF report, which MaltaToday published in April 2013, had claimed that Zammit approached tobacco producer Swedish Match, proposing he make use of its contacts with John Dalli to overturn an EU ban on snus.

The OLAF report had concluded that Dalli, although not involved, had been aware of what was going on. However, that report had come under fire from several MEPs who claimed it was “biased.”

Dalli has categorically denied any wrong-doing and filed a complaint in a Belgian court that led to the demand that Kessler’s immunity be lifted. A separate defamation case has been instituted by Dalli against Swedish Match. Dalli has also filed proceedings before the European Court of Justice against the Commission, asking that the decision by former EC President Jose Manuel Barroso to force Dalli’s resignation, be declared null. His request was turned down, but now awaits an appeals decision.

More in Dalligate