OLAF insists that there is no conclusive evidence that John Dalli participated in the operation that requested money in return for the lifting of the ban on the tobacco product snus. However, there is circumstantial evidence that shows how Dalli knew that Maltese entrepreneur and former Sliema PN deputy mayor Silvio Zammit was using his name to gain financial, advantage and Dalli did not report him.
In a statement on Friday, OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office tried to clarify its position in the wake of the controversial resignation of John Dalli from the post of European Commissioner this week.
This is OLAF's full statement:
In order to clarify comments contained in recent media reports, OLAF issues the following statement regarding its investigation into alleged bribe requests to obtain the lifting of the EU ban on snus.
The OLAF investigation found evidence that a Maltese entrepreneur, who had organised meetings between Commissioner DALLI and representatives and lobbyists of snus producers, repeatedly requested a considerable sum of money from the snus industry in exchange for the adoption of a proposal for the lifting of the ban on snus, trading on the name of the Commissioner. This request was declined by the snus industry and no payment or financial transactions have taken place.
The OLAF investigation found no conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Commissioner DALLI in the operation for requesting money. In line with Regulation 1073/99, OLAF has referred the case to the competent Maltese judicial authorities, for their consideration of the criminal aspects of the actions of the persons involved.
OLAF has also concluded that there are a number of unambiguous circumstantial pieces of evidence gathered in the course of the investigation, indicating that Commissioner DALLI was aware of the activities of the Maltese entrepreneur and of the fact that this person was using the Commissioner's name and position to gain financial advantages. OLAF found that Commissioner DALLI had taken no action to prevent or dissociate himself from the facts or to report the circumstances. In line with Regulation 1073/99, OLAF referred the case to the President of the Commission, for his consideration in light of the provisions laid down by the “Code of Conduct for the Commissioners”, C (2011) 2094.
OLAF was aware of the evidence reported in recent press articles which formed part of the overall findings of the investigation on the basis of which OLAF has drawn its conclusions. OLAF regrets that partial evidence of the case has been provided to the press by interested parties, and will not comment on details of the investigation as the matter is now under consideration by the judicial authorities.
The following rules of procedure apply to the rights of the persons concerned by OLAF investigations:
Article 4 of the Commission Decision 199/396/EC of 2 June 1999 provides that:
"In any event, conclusions referring by name to a Member … of the Commission may not be drawn once the investigation has been completed without the interested party’s having been enabled to express his views on all the facts which concern him."
Article 18.1 of the OLAF Instructions to Staff on Investigative Procedures stipulates that:
"Prior to drawing conclusions referring by name to a person concerned, the investigation unit must inform him of facts concerning him and invite him to comment on those facts. These comments may be provided within the framework of an interview or in writing."
All rights of the persons concerned by the investigation have been respected. Prior to the adoption of the final report a comprehensive review of the investigation process was conducted to ensure compliance with all legal requirements including the rights and procedural guarantees of the persons concerned.
Commissioner DALLI was interviewed twice during OLAF's investigation. On these occasions he was provided with the allegations and the facts concerning him, and given the opportunity to comment on them. Commissioner DALLI was informed and availed of his right to be assisted by a person of his choice during the interview.
The principle of the presumption of innocence and the right of defence of the persons concerned by OLAF investigations are fully respected throughout the whole investigation process.
Swedish Match was asked to pay € 60 million - over 500 million kroner - to get the ban on snus in the EU lifted, according to Swedish national daily Aftonbladet.