Pressure mounts on European Commission to publish Dalligate investigation

Legal opinion from Commission’s legal services, and magistrate’s decision in charges against Silvio Zammit

The investigative report carried out by the EU's anti-fraud unit OLAF into a €60 million bribe that former Commissioner for health and consumer policy John Dalli allegedly was aware of, could soon see the light of day.

In the same month that a Maltese court ordered police investigators to present the OLAF report as evidence for their prosecution of Silvio Zammit, 48 of Sliema, the European Commission's legal services has declared that MEPs should be granted access to the OLAF report.

Zammit, a former canvasser of John Dalli, is accused of bribery and trading in influence for demanding €60 million from Swedish snus producer Swedish Match to reverse an EU retail ban on snus tobacco. Dalli, who was spearheading a review of stiff anti-smoking laws, was said to have been aware of Zammit's attempts according to OLAF. EC president José Barroso subsequently demanded that he tender his resignation. Dalli has denied the allegation.

In a legal opinion from the EC's legal services director Ricardo Passos, MEPs were told that the Commission may transmit the Dalligate report, and added that although the report was in the hands of the Maltese attorney general and police "[this] does not imply that the Commission can transmit to Parliament only with the prior consent of the latter."

"The case-law of the Court of Justice does not impose a requirement for such prior consent in order for the Commission to send the report to Parliament," Passos said.

The EC has so far claimed it was not able to disclose the report to MEPs until the Maltese prosecutors finish their investigations.

Passos however said that the EC can refuse sharing the Dalli file if it meant that MEPs could "fail to respect the confidentiality in the report and interfere in the judicial proceedings in Malta in violation of the sub judice principle or [if it] would violate the rights of Mr Dalli."

Dalli has so far not yet been charged in court, although police prosecutors said that they cannot issue charges as yet, ostensibly because Dalli has been ill recently.

Magistrate Anthony Vella, who is presiding over the compilation of evidence against Silvio Zammit, has ordered the Attorney General and the Police to exhibit the OLAF report after defence lawyers said it was "absurd" that prosecutors kept the report to themselves, in the process causing great prejudice to their case.

The OLAF investigative report has so far been a secret even to John Dalli, whose resignation was prompted by a covering letter from OLAF director Giovanni Kessler that claimed there was "unambiguous circumstantial evidence" that Dalli was aware that Zammit was attempting to influence smoking laws.

MEPs from the budgetary control committee, as well as European Parliament presidents, have made it their mission to understand why the Dalli report was not even shown in full to the OLAF supervisory committee before being transmitted to the Maltese attorney general.

In an 11 December letter to budgetary control committee president Michael Theurer MEP, OLAF supervisory committee chairman Johan Denolf said the committee had "discovered a number of potential problems and issued recommendations to the Director General of OLAF in that regard which require a discussion with him on a more systemic level about the ways in which OLAF is conducting its investigations."

The supervisory committee was in fact precluded from carrying out its examination of the report before it could be transmitted to the Attorney General, contrary to European case-law.    

More in National
avatar
you dont you guys stop such kinds of investigation, its really ruine the law... Ref: Linear Displacement Transmitter ------------------------- linear displacement transmitter
avatar
Luke Camilleri
Should' the European Commission be transparent AND ACCOUNTABLE IN DECISIONS TAKEN? Why is it dragging its feet to publish such a report and MAKE IT PUBLIC in the NATIONAL INTEREST, our the MALTESE National interest ??? There is Malta's reputation involved and not the Ntionalist Party, Dr. Lawrence Gonzi which is at stake!
avatar
These OLAF reports should be interesting. Let's wait and see.
avatar
Pls note a small error in this article. Riccardo Pasos is a director (of Directorate A - Institutional and Parliamentary Affairs)in the Legal Service of the European Parliament; he does not work in the Legal Service of the European Commission. That is quite a difference as opinions of the EP Legal Service do not bind the Commission. See: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/00d7a6c2b2/Secretariat.html?tab=eParliament_secretariat_sj
avatar
Mr Dalli or the key actors in the lobbying scandal are guilty of innocent. The very first thing that needs to happen is for the Commission to respond to demands from MEPs and the thouands of European citizens to clear the smoke and clarify what happened in the lobbying scandal that led to the resignation of Comissioner Dalli.