Dalli irked by EC double-standards in new scandal

European Commission's defence of Trade Commissioner DE Gucht, draws comparisons between the Belgian's presumption of innocence and the sacking of Malta's former Commissioner John Dalli.

The European Commission's defence of Trade Commissioner Karol De Gucht - facing charges of committing fiscal fraud in Belgium - this week drew comparisons between the Belgian's 'presumption of innocence' and the sacking of Malta's former commissioner John Dalli in October 2012 over an OLAF investigation that suggested he was aware of a bribery attempt by one of his canvassers.

While the Commission is saying there are no similarities between both cases, the accusations against De Gucht are unrelated to his work as commissioner. But on this latest scandal to hit the Commission, De Gucht told commission president José Manuel Barroso "that he had guaranteed there was no wrongdoing in the case".

But former commissioner John Dalli has taken a different viewpoint on the matter, pointing out that "the presumption of innocence was not respected at all" in his case.

"I had made it clear to Barroso, verbally and in writing, that I had nothing to do with the discussions that were going on between Maltese parties and Swedish Match and ESTOC," he said, referring to OLAF's accusation that he had been aware of an attempt by a former canvasser to solicit a €60 million bribe from snus producing company Swedish Match and the smokeless tobacco lobby, to lift an EU retail ban on the sale of snus.

According to Belgian media, the country's tax authorities have asked De Gucht's family to pay around €1 million in unpaid taxes. On its part, the Commissioner has stood behind De Gucjt. "We cannot prejudge the outcome, and the presumption of innocence must be respected. This inquiry concerns issues that are unrelated to the functions of a commissioner, so unrelated to the functions of Commissioner De Gucht's portfolio and the tasks that are being performed by him."

In contrast, on the strength of the conclusions of anti-fraud chief Giovanni Kessler, Barroso had immediately demanded Dalli's resignation. "It should be emphasised that in my case OLAF could find no evidence that I was in any way involved and declared this in their conclusions," Dalli said yesterday of the OLAF report that was made public in a leak by MaltaToday six months after his resignation.

But his pointed criticism of the way his resignation was handled is clear, pointing to the absence of a powerful interest lobby in the De Gucht case or the hand of government detractors.

"The differences between the de Gucht case and my case are very obvious. The tobacco industry was not involved and the Belgian government did not see the termination of de Gucht as an opportunity," Dalli said, a suggestion that points fingers at the former administration's tacit support of his removal.

"OLAF also declared no payment of money had been made and that the decision-making process of the Commission services on the Tobacco Products Directive had not been impaired - meaning that I had been consistent throughout the process of the development of the tobacco directive.  In fact it is after my termination that the directive was heavily diluted."

Dalli added that in the absence of any evidence against him, Kessler "concocted a preposterous conjecture that I was aware of what was going on, giving an excuse to Barroso to terminate me." 

"Barroso tried to hide this absurdity by keeping the report secret. OLAF tried to hide their scam by advising a key witness from Swedish Match to continue telling a false story, as admitted by Swedish Match employees," he said, referring to the fact that OLAF had identified Swedish Match lobbyist Gayle Kimberley and Silvio Zammit as accomplices of the alleged bribery, but not Dalli himself. But according to Swedish Match bosses, OLAF suggested they do not reveal that Kimberley had lied to them over a meeting with Dalli she had had, but that never took place.

"While Barroso immediately accepted Kessler's conclusions, the OLAF report was heavily criticised by the Supervisory Committee. Once it was leaked, there was profuse criticism from various independent quarters."


Mr Joe is using talent, for your sake, which was thrown away by Gonzi-Simon-PN for the sake of the Klikka, Guzep
AS ALL LEVEL-HEADED, UNBIASED CITIZENS SHOULD VERY WELL BE! Have we been made members, and are we part of a monstrous huge corruptible and actually corrupt system?
Listen to the pot calling the kettle black. I guess Mr Dalli is not aware that because Mr Joe took him under his wings and the newly appointed police commissioner declared him innocent, he is still being investigated by the EU. Hang in there Mr Dalli because Mr Joe can only do so much. The EU still has the final decision.