OLAF director replies to MEPs’ questions on Dalligate

Kessler invokes confidentiality rules on specific questions dealing with contents of investigation into former commissioner John Dalli.

John Dalli resigned ahead of an important revision of EU smoking laws, when the OLAF investigation claimed he was aware of a bribe.
John Dalli resigned ahead of an important revision of EU smoking laws, when the OLAF investigation claimed he was aware of a bribe.

MEPS from the Budgetary Control Committee have had little joy from answers they sought directly from the EU's anti-fraud unit on the investigation they led on former EU commissioner John Dalli.

Questions for OLAF director Giovanni Kessler that specifically dealt with the investigation into the allegation of a €60 million bribe from Swedish Match to reverse an EU ban on snus tobacco, were answers with a standard reply that claimed data protection and confidentiality prevented him from replying to certain questions.

Kessler was unwilling to answer a question by one MEP which demand to know on what legal basis had itemised bills for private phone calls by Dalli and other persons concerned in the investigation, had been obtained.

Dalli was asked to resign on 16 October by Commission president José Manuel Barroso, on the basis of the OLAF investigation - which was completed on 15 October - which claims there was "unambiguous circumstantial evidence" that Dalli was aware of the bribe.

The bribe was allegedly proposed by former PN local councillor Silvio Zammit to Gayle Kimberley, a former European Council lawyer reportedly acting as Swedish Match's lobbyist in Malta.

Other questions Kessler invoked confidentiality rules as a basis not to answer them, were:

-       whether OLAF had access to Dalli's private e-banking account;

-       who were the people to interview the persons concerned, and how long did the interviews take;

-       whether OLAF considered the possibility that Kimberley might have been pursuing her own interests throughout her dealings with Zammit;

-       what investigative steps were taken by the Maltese Afcos (anti-fraud coordination office),

-       whether OLAF cooperated with Swedish Match or lobbyists ESTOC, and whether taped conversations Swedish Match provided to OLAF were admissible under Belgian law.

Kessler also said that OLAF was "unable to identify" two specific telephone communications between his office and the government of Malta on 15 October at 10:01am, and 21 October at 7:52pm.

The answers reveal that Swedish Match's complaint of 21 May was forwarded by Commission secretary-general Catherine Day to OLAF on 24 May.

On 25 May, OLAF closed its assessment of the allegations. Kessler said that there were 48 other cases in which assessment was conducted in one or two days, but added that since February 2012 the average duration of assessment was of 1.7 months. "The duration of the selection process in this case was not so short," Kessler said.

Day also inquired with Kessler before the summer break if the investigation would be closed during the summer.

Kessler officially informed Barroso and Day sometime during the 5 and 6 October that the investigation would be closed by 15 October. On that day, the report was handed over to Day.

Kessler also said that Internal Audit and Investigations Department director-general Rita Schembri, who headed Afcos, was informed by the OALF about the investigation before carrying out its investigation in Malta.

Schembri also sits on the OLAF supervisory committee, but Kessler said she was "not asked to give any assessment on the case."

Kessler was vague about the possible existence of a 'plot' to bring down Dalli, who was pursuing a tough revision of the Tobacco Products Directive during 2012. "OLAF conducted a thorough and independent investigation... all the options were considered, including the possibility that the persons at the origin of the allegations or the persons concerned were pursuing vested interests.

"All the evidence collected was analysed and taken into consideration to prove or disprove the existence or otherwise of the fraud or the wrongdoing."

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In my opinion , to invoke the Data protection and Confidentiality to refuse to answer specific questions on such an issue where there is the reputation of ex-Commissoner Mr.John Dalli at stake , is a good excuse to cover up wronge doings by the same OLAF and Mr. Barroso . Truth will Triumph someday .
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In my opinion , to invoke the Data protection and Confidentiality to refuse to answer specitic questions on such an issue where there is the reputation of ex-Commissoner Mr.John Dalli at stake , is a good excuse to cover up wronge doings by the same OLAF and Mr. Barroso . Truth will Triumph someday .
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Luke Camilleri
Our Prime Minister should STAND UP and be counted, there is Malta's Honour and Reputation at stake!
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I said it from the bigining that Dalli was being framed and it is now even more clear
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Tlett ijiem qabel l-vot tal-budget ahjar ghamel bilateral meeting mad-dissidenti Nazzjonalisti u l-koalizzjoni ta JPO: 'Its not business as usual Mr Prime Minister: you have led us to this trap',(trappola kif ihobb jghid l-Ministru Tonio Fenech)!