EU commissioner quits on foot of fraud inquiry
MALTA’S MEMBER of the European Commission has resigned on foot of a fraud inquiry.
Investigators found that John Dalli, who held the health and consumer policy portfolio, was aware of efforts by a Maltese businessman to peddle contacts with the commissioner to influence tobacco legislation. Mr Dalli denies any wrongdoing but said he was resigning to defend his reputation and that of the commission.
The commission said no money changed hands and that its decision-making process was unaffected by the matters under investigation.
A former finance minister and minister for foreign affairs, Mr Dalli is the first commissioner to leave the EU’s executive branch as a result of an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office Olaf.
His departure follows an inquiry by Olaf into a complaint made last May by tobacco company Swedish Match. The case concerned possible legislation on snus, a Swedish form of smokeless tobacco which is taken orally in a teabag and releases nicotine while sitting between lip and gum.
“The company alleged that a Maltese entrepreneur had used his contacts with Mr Dalli to try to gain financial advantages from the company in return for seeking to influence a possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products, in particular on the EU export ban on snus,” the commission said.
The commission said it invited Olaf to investigate as soon as it received the complaint. Olaf’s report was submitted to the commission on Monday. “It found that the Maltese entrepreneur had approached the company using his contacts with Mr Dalli and sought to gain financial advantages in exchange for influence over a possible future legislative proposal on snus,” said the commission.
“No transaction was concluded between the company and the entrepreneur and no payment was made. The Olaf report did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli but did consider that he was aware of these events.”
According to the commission, the Olaf report “showed clearly” that its decision-making and the position of the services concerned were not affected at all.
“The final Olaf report and its recommendations are being sent by Olaf to the attorney general of Malta. It will now be for the Maltese judiciary to decide how to follow up,” the commission said.
Mr Dalli resigned with immediate effect after commission chief José Manuel Barroso informed him about the report’s findings. “Mr Dalli categorically rejects these findings,” it said.