Silvio Zammit's lawyer questions Kessler interview, says claims are ‘untrue and fabricated’

Silvio Zammit's lawyer says Giovanni Kessler's version of events is 'untrue' and that the OLAF chief 'fabricated conspiract theories' against his client.

Edward Gatt, the lawyer representing Silvio Zammit, has questioned OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler’s interview with the Sunday Times, arguing that was of “great surprise” to find out that Kessler gave an interview when he had earlier managed not to testify before the Public Accounts Committee.

In a letter to the Sunday Times, Gatt – who is Silvio Zammit’s defence counsel after the latter was charged with soliciting a multi-million bribe to reverse an EU retail ban on snus – took exception at Kessler’s “untrue” version of events, and claimed that the OLAF chief  “fabricated conspiracy theories” against Zammit.

“ … It is rather frustrating for my client having to bear with all these stories, perceptions of grandeur on Kessler’s part and fabricated conspiracy theories at this stage …” Gatt wrote on behalf of Zammit.

Zammit’s defence lawyer also said that Zammit, was greatly surprised to find out that Kessler had given the interview when he had earlier managed not to testify before the Public Accounts Committee after he had failed to garner the necessary permission from the European Commission.

The interview followed Kessler’s testimony against Zammit, 58, who is charged with his requesting a €60 million bribe in return for the lifting of a ban on snus, a smokeless form of tobacco.

In his testimony, Kessler described Silvio Zammit, a one-time canvasser of Dalli, as the “man with the golden key” that gave Swedish Match and Estoc access to what should have been an “inaccessible” commissioner.

A recorded conversation between Zammit and a representative from the European Smokeless Tobacco Lobby (ESTOC) Inge Delfosse in which Zammit asked for €10m to arrange a meeting between his “boss” and Ms Delfosse’s boss was presented in court, while according to other evidence, Zammit had previously asked a Swedish Match representative for €60 million to lift the ban.

Kessler’s testimony has since been strongly contested by Silvio Zammit, with his lawyer claiming that it is all a fabricated conspiracy theory.

“My client wishes to inform your readers that Kessler’s version of events, and notably his interpretation, is all untrue and is being strongly contested in court,” the letter read.

In court, Zammit denounced the testimony and was allegedly heard stating that Kessler’s testimony put “Pinocchio to shame.” Moreover, during the sitting, Silvio Zammit gave Kessler the middle finger after the latter was asked to identify Zammit.

Meanwhile, Kessler’s interview – which was published last Sunday – also drew a reply by former European Commissioner John Dalli last week. On March 17, while Kessler was testifying against Zammit, Dalli had called on the police “to take action,” after accusing the chief of the EU-anti fraud agency of committing perjury.

During the interview, Kessler questioned Dalli’s decision to attack OLAF instead of turning the guns on Silvio Zammit.

“He could have taken Mr Zammit to court for tarnishing his reputation... He could have accused him of trading in influence to his detriment. There is no question that Silvio Zammit has damaged Mr Dalli, greatly. Mr Dalli also has the right I think, to be a civil party in the criminal case. It would give Mr Dalli the right to have a lawyer in that case putting questions to Mr Zammit. He didn’t. Why?”

Dalli insisted that he is waiting for the conclusion of the judicial process before considering his options, and said that his lawyer advised him that the court would not accept him being a party during Zammit’s criminal proceedings.

Dalli also claimed that the OLAF report – which amongst others concluded that there was enough evidence to indicate that the former European Commissioner knew Zammit was using his name to secure a bribe – is a fraud.

The investigation, which according to OLAF showed a series of phone calls between Dalli and Zammit when the alleged bribe requests were made, was used by former European Commission president José Barroso to sack Dalli when the Maltese commissioner refused to resign.  Dalli has challenged the forced resignation in the European Court of Justice.