Dalli to sue for libel over ‘malicious’ reporting on overseas bank accounts

Former minister says he was implicated in story on Swiss bank account held by Austin Gatt suggesting he also is involved in list of Swiss account holders.

John Dalli said he wants to sue The Times for libel
John Dalli said he wants to sue The Times for libel

Former minister and European commissioner John Dalli has announced he will file criminal and civil defamation charges against The Times over a report in which it said that the PN had not suspended either him or former minister Austin Gatt over undeclared money in Swiss bank accounts.

“The newspaper has implicated me in a story on Swiss bank accounts so that they suggest that I am involved in this list of bank accounts,” Dalli, who resigned his commissioner’s post back in 2012 over an anti-fraud investigation, said in a statement to the press.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil told The Times that he will not be looking to suspend former ministers Austin Gatt and John Dalli from the party over overseas bank accounts since their cases did not surface under his watch.

The newspaper said that Dalli had “faced claims – which he has strenuously denied – of moving millions of euros to the Bahamas”.

“I am not shirking responsibility,” Busuttil said. “If Mr Dalli is arraigned in court while I am leader, I’ll make sure he is suspended from the party. But I can only be judged on what happens under my tenure and not what happened ages ago,” he said.

Dalli said the report was “malicious”.

“I had written to the European Parliament offering them a power of attorney so that they can check with all the world’s banks whether I had any bank account with them,” Dalli said in a reference to The Times’s coverage of his undeclared trip to the Bahamas in which he claimed he was assisting in the creation of a philanthropic organisation financed by entrepreneurs.

He added that he appealed to the government to procure the Hervé Falciani list of HSBC Banque Privée clients – given to French police in 2006 and recently leaked to Le Monde and the ICIJ – in a bid “not to leave any space for blackmail and manipulation.”

Dalli was forced to resigned in October 2012 over allegations that he was aware of a €60 million bribe to reverse anti-smoking laws.

He denied having transferred up to $100 million in cash in the Bahamas after a story appeared in the International Herald Tribune, based on the claims of a Bahamas landlord who rented a holiday home to Dalli’s family. The matter was also sent to OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, to investigative.

At the time, Dalli said he was prepared to give a power of attorney to a trusted individual to make all the checks with any or all the banks in the Bahamas to verify his claims. “I declare that I do not have any bank accounts in any other jurisdiction except in Brussels where I received payments from the Commission and in Malta where my pension payment is deposited,” Dalli told MEPs in his letter.

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