‘Never discussed tobacco issues with Dalli,’ Alfred Mifsud insists

Despite being on the retainer of tobacco giant Philip Morris International, Alfred Mifsud insists he was not a lobbyist

Alfred Mifsud, set to become Central Bank governor
Alfred Mifsud, set to become Central Bank governor

Economist Alfred Mifsud, set to become the Central Bank governor in less than three weeks, has vehemently denied every discussing tobacco issues with former European Commissioner John Dalli, despite being on the retainer of tobacco giant Philip Morris.

“I never discussed tobacco issues with John Dalli. Our meetings were mostly during the Greek financial crisis and I asked to meet him to express my great reservations about the package for Greece. As the time, I wrote extensively on this matter. Events show I was right as Greece needed further bailouts,” Mifsud told MaltaToday when contacted.

Mifsud, who is currently abroad, went on to add that Greece’s package was being negotiated by the European Commission and “John Dalli needed technical information to participate in such important debates at Commission level”.

EurActiv, who carried a report quoting the Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, claimed Mifsud took money from the tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) to entertain a relationship with Dalli, at the time European Commissioner for health and thus responsible for the EU’s tobacco legislation portfolio.

Mifsud’s fee was of €2,750 a month and he was on PMI’s payroll in 2011 and 2012. According to the reports, Mifsud had been engaged to act as a middleman with Dalli and that the payments stopped when Dalli was forced to resign.

The former EU health commissioner was forced to resign his post as European Commissioner by president José Manuel Barroso on 16 October 2012, on the strength of the covering letter to an OLAF report alleging that circumstantial evidence existed that Dalli was aware of a €60 million bribe to reverse tobacco rules.

OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, claimed there was circumstantial evidence showing that Dalli was aware of a €60 million bribe being solicited by a former canvasser, Silvio Zammit, from Swedish Match and the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (Estoc) to reverse an EU retail ban on snus tobacco.

Mifsud however denied ever discussing tobacco issues with Dalli.

“I deny I ever discussed anything related to tobacco, not just snus. I am not a lobbyist. I am an economist and business consultant. I’ve never accepted lobbying work,” Mifsud insisted.

Asked why he had therefore been on PMI’s payroll, Mifsud said his role was “to follow up events related to class action legislation, to monitor fiscal effects of increased taxes on tobacco products and to report anything appearing in the media on tobacco”.

Denies receiving money from businessman

Caruana Galizia has also alleged that Mifsud “took a significant amount of cash form a well-known businessman when he was chairman of Mid Med Bank” between 1996 and 1998.

Denying the allegations, Mifsud said: “These allegations are strongly denied as fruit of revenge garbage from a personal failed relationship and attempts to torpedo my next appointment. Raising 18-year-old garbage on the even of an important appointment speaks for itself as to motivations.”