New information on the resignation of former Health Commissioner John Dalli has emerged at the hearing of the Director-General of OLAF (the EU’s Anti-Fraud Organisation), Giovanni Kessler, before the European Parliament’s Committe on Budgetary Control (CONT), on 25 October. Kessler clarified that OLAF’s inquiry had not turned up any conclusive proof of Dalli’s implication in the corruption scandal, which led to his resignation.
OLAF, which worked in cooperation with the Maltese anti-fraud services and Dalli, did not find any precedents for this affair. According to Kessler, there have been no other investigations into cases relating to the tobacco directive. The director-general of OLAF also reassured MEPs that Dalli’s rights have been respected throughout the procedure. During the ex-commissioner’s first interview with investigators in mid-July, he did not request assistance from an adviser, but he was accompanied by a lawyer during his second interview in mid-September.
Europolitics has also gained access to extra information on OLAF’s Supervisory Committee. The resignation of the committee’s Chairman, Christiaan Timmermans, on 24 October, stemmed from a request for an accelerated examination of Dalli’s case. The Supervisory Committee is supposed to guarantee OLAF’s independence by regularly monitoring its inquiries. Before sending the Dalli dossier to the Maltese judicial authorities, the heads of OLAF requested that the examination of the case by the Supervisory Committee should be carried out rapidly, and orally. Timmermans accepted this, while the majority of the four other members were anxious to take more time. Therefore, since Timmermans was in the minority, he resigned. However, according to a source close to the dossier, Timmermans was simply using this incident as a pretext for his resignation - he was already intending to announce his wish to give up his position, for family reasons, in September.
Every day has brought new revelations in this story, and MEPs have had the unpleasant feeling that they have not been kept up-to-date on all developments. These uncertainties have led to a range of theories; that the commissioner is corrupt, that the real story behind ‘Dalligate’ was a conspiracy by the tobacco industry, that the president of the Commission knew that Dalli had other skeletons in the cupboard and jumped at a timely opportunity to get rid of him.
Parliament has now called for more information on “all circumstancies around this resignation” in a letter sent by EP President Martin Schulz Commission chief José Manuel Barroso. ‘Dalligate’ could now even create a precedent; Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium), leader of ALDE, has called for all future reshuffles of the College of Commissioners to be explained to MEPs, and for this principle to be inscribed within an interinstitutional agreement.