MEPs say OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler’s resignation ‘unavoidable’

Reactions from MEPs following hearing of OLAF supervisory committee report on John Dalli investigation.

Green MEP José Bové (right) has called for the resignation of Giovanni Kessler over his role in the John Dalli investigation.
Green MEP José Bové (right) has called for the resignation of Giovanni Kessler over his role in the John Dalli investigation.

Senior MEPs from the Budgetary Control Committee that is responsible for the monitoring of OLAF have called for the resignation of the head of the EU's anti-fraud agency, after the annual report of the independent five-person supervisory committee questioned the legality of methods employed during the four-month investigation into bribery allegations against former EU commissioner John Dalli.

Green MEPs Bart Staes, vice-chair of the European Parliament's budgetary control committee, and José Bové, vice-chair of the EP's agriculture committee, said the OLAF supervisory committee's report had made Giovanni Kessler's position as OLAF director "untenable".

OLAF Supervisory Committee Annual Report 2012 by maltatoday

Joining in the fray was one of Kessler's man critics, Inge Graessle (EPP), who called on European Commission president José Barroso to take "the necessary steps to dismiss OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler and prevent further damage to the credibility of the office."

Graessle said the supervisory committee's annual report had flagged violations of fundamental rights, delayed investigations into customs and EU funds' fraud, and allegations that Giovanni Kessler was personally involved in the investigation and other violations of OLAF rules, such as the illegal recording of a private phone recording.

Graessle called on the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to give the budgetary control committee access to all relevant documents in the Dalli case. "Now, all the facts have to be placed on the table. The secrecy and the mismanagement of OLAF chief Kessler must not be swept under the carpet."

Her sentiment was echoed by Green MEPs Staes and Bové:

"The lack of regard for procedure and legal norms in OLAF's investigation of John Dalli cannot be brushed under the table. Against this background, there seems no alternative but for Giovanni Kessler to resign as OLAF director-general."

Kessler was accused of having failed to be impartial in the investigation concerning a request by a Maltese businessman, Silvio Zammit, for €60 million to be paid by Swedish Match for the reversal of an EU trading ban on the sale of snus, which the company manufactured. Dalli was accused by OLAF of having been aware of the bribe, but when he resigned on 16 October 2012 he was not granted access to the investigative report by Commission president José Barroso.

"From the outset, the Greens/EFA group was concerned about the controversy, both as regards its implications for the role of lobbying and applicable rules on transparency, as well as the apparent disregard for procedure up to the highest levels in the EU institutions. The group proposed a special committee of the European Parliament to look into the matter but this was regrettably rejected by almost all other groups," Staes and Bové said.

Kessler and the European Commission will face MEPs again over the contents of the supervisory committee's report, and the role of OLAF in the investigation.

Specifically, the committee felt that Kessler had authorised questionable legal methods to collect information, and requested telephone records that were not OLAF's to investigate.

"The case has wider implications for the EU institutions and those officials involved, as well as for applicable rules on ethics, transparency and lobbying. It is time for the other political groups to stop burying their heads in the sand: the credibility of the EU institutions is at stake.

"It is not only necessary and in the public interest to get to the bottom of the Dalligate controversy, ensuring any misconduct is sanctioned, it is also crucial that we draw lessons from the case and reform our institutions and the applicable ethics and transparency rules to prevent further abuses."

José Bové, Inge Graessle are Maltese MEPs? Where is Simon Busuttil, MEP and front runner for the vacant position of PN party leader? Isn't ex-Commissioner Dalli from the same party? Incredible how the PN have dumped Dalli. It is a shame on the PN which will linger on for half a century!
And on Giovanni Kessler’s doubtful report President Barroso gave Commissioner Dalli a few hours to hand his resignation with the blessing of PM Lawrence Gonzi. How long can Kessler hold his post as head of OLAF knowing that a good number of MEPs are accusing his dodgy findings into John Dalli’s case, against the fundamental human rights. This has been a frame up from the beginning and people involved in ousting Mr. Dalli should be held responsible. After Kessler's resignation President Barroso should follow suit.