Silvio Zammit, Dalligate personality in 10-year bribery saga, dies at 57

Popular Sliema restaurateur was caught up in Dalligate scandal by soliciting €60 million bribe to convince John Dalli to reverse EU retail ban on snus tobacco

Silvio Zammit
Silvio Zammit

Silvio Zammit, the Sliema restaurateur accused of soliciting a €60 million bribe in return to influence European Commissioner John Dalli to lift a retail ban on smokeless tobacco, has died. He was 57.

Zammit was a well-known character in his hometown of Sliema, running the restaurant named after his father, Peppi ‘tal-Imqaret’, a seller of date-cakes. He was also an honorary president of the St Gregory’s band club, in Sliema, a former deputy mayor, as well as a circus and fairgrounds impresario.

It was at his restaurant that Zammit was solicited by a Maltese lobbyist, lawyer Gayle Kimberley, to approach John Dalli on behalf of Estoc, the European smokeless tobacco lobby, and Swedish firm Swedish Match. The company was seeking a reversal of the EU retail ban on snus.

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In his ‘political’ role, the lifelong Nationalist activist Silvio Zammit was a canvasser for Nationalist ministers like Michael Refalo and Michael Frendo, before he was asked by the PN to canvass for John Dalli in 2008. In time, he became the short-lived deputy mayor of his hometown.

Close to the PN: Silvio Zammit was a well-known canvasser for Nationalist politicians
Close to the PN: Silvio Zammit was a well-known canvasser for Nationalist politicians

Zammit’s connections were sought by Swedish Match after he accompanied their vice-president Thomas Hammargren in 2010 to meet John Dalli at the Kempinski Hotel in Gozo. Zammit then started being courted by the people at Estoc and Swedish Match, as a possible avenue with which to convince Dalli to overturn the EU’s retail ban on snus: first with a 2010 visit to Stockholm, where Zammit had lunch with Inge Delfosse, the secretary-general of Estoc and Swedish Match spokesperson Rupini Bergstrom.

Between 2011 and 2012, Dalli was spearheading a review of the Tobacco Products Directive, where he intended to keep up a ban on the sale of snus outside Sweden, the only EU Member State to have a derogation from the ban.

Dalli resigned on 16 October 2012 after a four-month investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud unit, led by its chief Giovanni Kessler. OLAF said there was circumstantial evidence that Dalli was aware of Zammit’s offer to Estoc. Zammit was later charged in December 2012.

Dalli was however only charged with the offence in 2022 – 10 years later.

Zammit often complained that the delay in his court hearing had breached his rights.

The police never took action against Kimberley, formerly a lawyer at the European Council’s legal services in Brussels, despite OLAF also recommending criminal prosecution for lying about a meeting she alleged having with Dalli personally in his St Julian’s office. Zammit’s defence lawyer Edward Gatt had complained that the Maltese police had refused to charge Kimberley.