Dalli threatens libel action against MaltaToday over ‘disgraced’ moniker

Former EU commissioner who stepped down over OLAF investigation into snus bribe says he wants MaltaToday to argue in court why he is ‘disgraced’

Former European Commissioner John Dalli
Former European Commissioner John Dalli

The former European Commissioner John Dalli has given notice to MaltaToday that he will sue the newspaper for libel for calling him “disgraced” in a reference to his resignation from the EC in 2012.

Dalli resigned his post after faced with accusations from the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF, that he was aware of canvasser Silvio Zammit attempts to solicit a €50 million bribe from Swedish Match and the European smokeless tobacco lobby to lift an EU retail ban on snus, the Swedish smokeless tobacco.

Dalli resigned after he was faced by then EC president José Manuel Barroso with a covering note on the OLAF investigation.

Subsequently, Dalli lost two attempts at getting the EU courts to recognise the termination of his office as unfair dismissal and to seek damages in compensation.

MaltaToday Dalligate reports

When MaltaToday revealed the contents of the OLAF report, it turned out that Zammit had been making phone-calls John Dalli in between meetings with the lobby’s Maltese representative Gayle Kimberly and Swedish Match representatives, but no concrete evidence existed of collusion.

Earlier in the week, Dalli gave notice to MaltaToday he would be suing the newspaper for “pinning the ‘disgraced’ tag on [him]”, even insisting that this was the word created for him by “the perverse blogger DCG and used by the poison pens that follow her,” referring to the late Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“I do not want one cent from you. But I want to hear you argue in court why I am disgraced,” Dalli said.

Dalli was referring to the story in which MaltaToday revealed that a group of investors fronted by Gozitan entrepreneur Joseph Portelli are in the process of buying the Jerma hotel site for a reported €90 million. Portelli is the person appearing for the high-rise Mercury House project in Paceville, is now fronting a group of Maltese and foreign individuals to buy the abandoned hotel site in Marsaskala.

The entrepreneur works from the same Portomaso office once used by the former disgraced EU Commissioner John Dalli. Portelli still uses the services of Dalli’s daughter, Claire Gauci Borda, who is involved in the financial aspect of his varied construction operations.

Dalli took exception at the article, which he described as “schizophrenic”.

“First slinging mud against people and then showing how much such a project is needed – maybe not to your specifications. Did mentioning me and my daughter add anything to the story? Maybe you wanted to imply that I am one of the investors? I am not. I wonder whether you were serving someone to push his agenda,” Dalli said in his letter to MaltaToday.

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