Updated | Recording of Zammit requesting bribe published, Dalli hits out at Kessler

A Swedish newspaper has published the recording of John Dalli’s former canvasser Silvio Zammit, soliciting a €10 million bribe from a tobacco lobbyist

Silvio Zammit
Silvio Zammit

A Swedish newspaper has published the recording of John Dalli’s former canvasser Silvio Zammit, soliciting a €10 million bribe from a tobacco lobbyist.

Zammit, charged with requesting a €60 million in bribes from Swedish company Swedish Match and the European smokeless tobacco lobby ESTOC, had reported ESTOC to the Belgian data protection commission citing a breach of privacy over the recording.

The recording had been essential for the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF to accuse Zammit of soliciting bribes from ESTOC, to lift an EU ban on the retail of snus tobacco by influencing then EU Commissioner for health John Dalli.

In the recording, ESTOC secretary-general Inge Delfosse says:  “I’m sorry, I’m a poor blonde... I’m a bit shocked here,” upon hearing the figure mentioned by Zammit. “I thought we could win this case without having to pay.”

In the recording, Zammit is heard asking Delfosse if she’s sitting down. “I’m almost lying down now,” she says.

“You’re lying down, better have some vitamins,” replies the man alleged to be Zammit.

The recording was published a week into the fifth anniversary of Dalli’s resignation, whom OLAF suggested was in contact with Zammit when the latter was soliciting the bribe.

It also comes days after it was revealed that OLAF director Giovanni Kessler will leave the anti-fraud agency a few months before his term is up to take up a specially-created post as a Commission official, seconded to Italian Customs.

In a reaction, John Dalli said that the leaked recording was part of a mudslinging campaign that “takes place when Kessler is in trouble”.

“Kessler was removed from the Commission with an accommodation from his friends in the Italian government. An exceptional package has been created for him with no precedent and that will never be repeated. This package has already come under heavy criticism from many quarters, including the Federation of EU Officials,” Dalli said of Kessler’s exit package.

“What was not said is that if one compares the recording of this telephone call with the transcript published by OLAF, one notices how OLAF has falsified the transcript to try and develop the ‘circumstantial evidence’ on which they based their fraud against me,” Dalli said.

The former Commissioner said he resigned to clear his name, and that OLAF affirmed in their report that he was not involved in the soliciting of bribes, that no money changed hands and that the decision-making process within his services at the Commission “was intact”.

Dalli said that Delfosse, other Swedish Match employees, and Kessler were being arraigned in Belgium after the Belgian police concluded an investigation on a defamation complaint he filed.

He added that the Commission had prevented the police from investigating OLAF staff and Kessler. “Is this the standard of the rule of law in the European Commission? I have not heard or seen anyone protesting against this arrogant, corrupt abuse of power.”

The telephone recording published in Sweden is believed to have been passed on to Swedish Match’s Fredrik Peyron, as revealed in the OLAF report, to pass on to Michel Petit, a former head of the EC’s legal services, at the time acting as a Clifford Chance lobbyist for tobacco company Philip Morris.

The OLAF report also reveals that Delfosse provided a copy of the call to OLAF.

A second telephone occurred on 3 July 2012, this time by Delfosse on instigation of OLAF personnel. Silvio Zammit has said the call was deliberately placed so that he can be entrapped.