The end of Dalligate? EU court dismisses complaints of unlawful OLAF graft probe

John Dalli’s nine complaints on unlawful conduct by the European Commission and OLAF were thrown out by an EU Court

Former European Commissioner John Dalli
Former European Commissioner John Dalli

The EU’s general court has dismissed an action brought by the former European Commissioner John Dalli by which he applied for compensation for damage allegedly suffered as a result of the termination of his office.

This was the second action Dalli brought before the EU court after his claim for unfair dismissal was not accepted.

Dalli resigned his office in September 2012 after he was faced by accusations from then Commission president José Barroso over an OLAF investigation that showed he had been in contact with restaurateur Silvio Zammit when the latter had been soliciting bribes from a Swedish snuff tobacco company seeking the end of a retail ban on its products.

“Dalli has not shown the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of OLAF or the Commission and has not established the existence of a sufficiently direct causal link between the conduct complained off and the alleged damage, or even the existence of the latter,” the General Court said.

In 2015, the General Court dismissed Dalli’s action seeking the annulment of what he claimed was the “oral decision of 16 October 2012 of termination of [his] office … with immediate effect, taken by the President of the Commission”, and for compensation of €1.9 million in material damage. His appeal was dismissed in 2016 by the European Court of Justice.

Dalli then brought another action for compensation for the damage, in particular non-material damage, caused to him, principally, by the alleged unlawful conduct of the Commission, including OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, connected with the termination of his office.

But the General Court said there to have been a sufficiently serious breach of a rule of law intended to confer rights on individuals, to satisfy a complaint on the unlawfulness of the conduct of the institutions.

“In that context, the Court rejects each of the seven complaints put forward by Mr Dalli concerning the unlawfulness of OLAF’s conduct. Those complaints alleged, inter alia, the unlawfulness of the decision to open an investigation, flaws in the characterisation of the investigation and the unlawful extension of it, the breach of the principles governing the gathering of evidence and distortion and falsification of the evidence, an infringement of the rights of the defence and of the principle of presumption of innocence and of the right to the protection of personal data.”

The Court also rejected his complaints that the Commission violated the principle of sound administration by not being impartial and objective, and the violation of OLAF’s independence.

“Mr Dalli fails to show the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of OLAF or the Commission. By way of an examination for the sake of completeness, the Court concludes that Mr Dalli does not establish the existence of a sufficiently direct causal link between the conduct complained of and the damage alleged, or even the existence of the latter. Mr Dalli’s action is therefore dismissed.”

More in Dalligate