John Dalli revives dismissal suit with €1 million damages claim

John Dalli is seeking €1 million in damages in a new complaint filed with the European Court of Justice for compensation for moral prejudice

Sworn enemeis John Dalli (left) and former Commission president José Barroso
Sworn enemeis John Dalli (left) and former Commission president José Barroso

John Dalli is seeking €1 million in damages in a new complaint he has filed with the European Court of Justice.

After having had his claim for unfair dismissal by the European Commission thrown out by the same EU court, Dalli is now insisting he should be compensated for the damages endured after his resignation – on the suggestion of his then boss José Barroso.

A source at the European Court told MaltaToday that Dalli is demanding “compensation for the prejudice, notably the moral prejudice, caused to [Dalli] by the unlawful behaviour of the Commission, in the context of the adoption of the oral decision of October 2012, taken by the President of the Commission to terminate [Dalli’s] office with immediate effect.”

Dalli was asked to step down by Barroso when a report by the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF claimed to have circumstantial evidence that Dalli was aware of a €60 million bribe attempt, to reverse a retail ban on snus tobacco.

While Dalli was not allowed to read the OLAF report, Barroso insisted he leave the Commission. Subsequently, Maltese police arraigned Silvio Zammit, a Sliema businessman who requested the €60 million bribe from snus producer Swedish Match, who suggested he could get Dalli to reverse the ban.

As health commissioner Dalli was in 2012 pushing new rules under the Tobacco Products Directive, although no attempt was made to overturn the ban on snus tobacco.

OLAF had also suggested that Maltese lawyer Gayle Kimberley, whom Swedish Match hired to lobby John Dalli, had played a duplicitous role by encouraging Zammit how to pitch the €60 million price to Estoc, the smokeless tobacco lobby of which Swedish Match was a member.

Since then, five years have elapsed from the alleged crime, which would mean that any trading-in-influence charges are now time-barred.

While OLAF never suggested that Dalli should be charged with either bribery or trading in influence, former Commissioner of Police John Rizzo has insisted he intended to arraign Dalli on the strength of the Maltese police force’s own investigations after October 2012.

But Malta was plunged into elections at the start of 2013, and Dalli left the island claiming he required medical treatment. Rizzo says he was unable to arraign Dalli at the time as Malta went into political overdrive.

Last week Dalli said in a statement that the police had never informed him about any arraignment, after the Times of Malta reported that Attorney General Peter Grech had green-lit the arrest warrant in 2013.

“I communicated with the police over the phone during December 2012-March 2013 about my return dates to Malta. The police were informed about the date of my return before I arrived in Malta,” Dalli said.

Dalli arrived back in Malta on 6 April, 2013, a week before Rizzo resigned from office.

“Rizzo had ample time to take the action he believed he should have taken. I believe this lack of action was due to the fact that the political pressure he had before the election, had vanished,” Dalli said in his most recent statement.

“He himself said in court that he was being pressured by the media and by parliament… this pressure was on the same day the [Nationalist] administration lost a confidence vote.”