Dutch MP tells John Dalli why he thinks he’s disgraced

The former European Commissioner last week called Council of Europe rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt shallow and irresponsible over a critical report of Malta’s rule of law he compiled

Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt has written back to former European Commissioner John Dalli and explained to him the reasons he referred to him as disgraced in a report about the rule of law in Malta that was adopted by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly in June.

Last week, Dalli wrote to Omtzigt, accusing him of reproducing unverified allegations about him in a Council of Europe report on the rule of law in Malta which he authored.

The report, which has been described as “riddled with in accuracies” by the government, was approved by the council’s parliamentary assembly back in June.

In his letter, Dalli accsued Omtzigt of reproducing “spurious information” fed to him by an unnamed prompter who he referred to as a “megalomaniac hatemonger in Malta”.

Dalli also took issue with being referred to as “disgraced” and said he hoped Omtzigt would “have the decency to apologise publicly”.

“I consider that I have nothing for which to apologise to you,” Omzigt told Dalli in his reply. “I am, however, prepared to overlook for now the accusations and insults against me in your published letter.”

The Dutch MP said that Dalli’s letter went beyond the scope of his report and delved into other aspects of his situation, which were “expressed in somewhat lurid and polemical language”.

Referring to claims the he had been fed information by a prompter, Omtzigt insisted that he did not know who Dalli was referring to, and assured him that his work was his own and that he took full responsibility for it.

As for the disgraced moniker, Omtzgt pointed to a report by OLAF the EU’s anti-fraud office that found that Dalli had “put at risk the image and the reputation of the European Commission in the eyes of the tobacco producers and, potentially, in front of public opinion”.

Dalli had resigned his post as Commissioner over allegations that his associates had attempted to solicit bribes from tobacco industry lobbyists.

Omtzigt noted that “in June of this year, the EU General Court comprehensively dismissed all of [Dalli’s] criticisms of the handling of his case by OLAF and the European Commission President”.

“Whilst you do not accept these judgments, I have no reason not to do so myself.”

Moreover, he also pointed out that the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) had criticised the fact that former officials who were embroiled in “dubious dealings” are given prominent functions. GRECO had also pointed to Dalli’s appointment as an advisor in 2013, which it described as disturbing when considering that he had not been prosecuted for the alleged bribery.

“In these circumstances, I feel that my use of the word ‘disgraced’, whilst succinct as a description of your situation, was well within the bounds of fair comment,” Omtzigt said.    

Regarding a reference to the fact that Dalli owned an account at Pilatus Bank, Omzigt said that Dalli was reading too much into the reference.

“However, I would agree that it seems peculiar for a person in your position to engage with a bank such as Pilatus, whose business model and operations have since been exposed as highly dubious to say the least, entrusting it with the not insignificant sum of €1,000, merely to ‘see what services they offer’, when a simple enquiry would surely have provided the same information for free,” Omtzigt said

John Dalli’s counter reply

In a counter reply, Dalli insisted that Omtzigt’s inability to understand his arguments were likely the real reason his report had “missed the real issues”.

He again insisted that OLAF’s conclusions were based on any evidence, “but were contrived by OLAF”. The only reason he had tendered his resignation, he said, was to be able to defend himself and prove his innocence.

He dismissed reference by the Dutch MP to reports by MEPs on fact-finding missions to Malta, saying that both David Casa and Ana Gomes were able substantiate their claims when he had confronted them.

Regarding, his Pilatus Bank account, Dalli said he had closed the account once doubts had been raised about the bank’s operations.