WATCH: Dalligate: A political "hot potato"

The German TV network, ZDF, is exploring the Dalli case based on documents leaked up to now and interviewing the main protagonists, including John Dalli and the Secretary General of OLAF, Giovanni Kessler, the ZDF story ends referring to the political “hot potato” now at the hands of the President of  the Commission.

Two separate interviews, one with John Dalli himself and the other with the Secretary General of OLAF, Giovanni Kessler, point to the same direction, with Kessler pointing out that OLAF has just an investigative role and denying that it played a role in Dalli’s dismissal.

“What happened does not depend on us. We didn’t even request it”, he said, pointing out that OLAF never said that Dalli is guilty of anything, on the contrary mentioning that “there is no conclusive evidence” of his being involved.

Watch full ZDF interview here

MEPs continue to press for an explanation regarding the resignation of John Dalli from the European Commission, saying that a report on the affair, part of which has been leaked by a Malta Today unclear about Dalli's involvement in tobacco lobbying.

“In this report the accusations against John Dalli, as we had supposed, are not based on concrete facts,” said Bart Staes, a Belgian member of the European Parliament for the Green Party.

Staes said the leaked document, which is missing two pages and several annexes, shows the inquiry into tobacco lobbying conducted by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF “cannot be dubbed impartial”. It confirms the accuracy of previous accusations that the inquiry involved “certain questionable methods, a lack of respect for procedures and the absence of respect for fundamental human rights,” he said.

Staes said the logical next step would be for members of the Parliament’s budgetary control committee to be granted access to a special report on the case, written by the OLAF Supervisory Committee. He also called for a response from the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso.

“It is now high time that Barroso explains himself over these dysfunctions and that he takes responsibility for his actions,” said Staes.

Olaf, has been under fire from the Parliament since Dalli left his position as health commissioner in October 2012. The commissioner’s exit came amid allegations he was aware of an attempt by an associate to extract money from a tobacco company in return for influence on legislation. But the report on which these allegations were based has remained under wraps, until now.

German MEP Inge Gräßle says the report, leaked by the MaltaToday news agency on 28 April, “opens up more questions than it provides answers”. Gräßle has been heading a Parliament investigation into the affair, under the budgetary control committee.

“The part of the report now accessible is full of speculation, assertions and obviously uncritical repetition of witness accounts,” said Gräßle, a member of the European People’s Party group.

In the covering letter to the 43-page report, Olaf’s director general Giovanni Kessler states: “There is no conclusive evidence of the direct participation of commissioner John Dalli, either as instigator or as mastermind” to request money in exchange for a change in tobacco policy.

However, the letter states there were “a number of unambiguous and converging circumstantial evidences gathered” indicating Dalli was aware of the actions of his associate in using his name and position to gain financial advantages.

As outlined in the report conclusions, this evidence appears to be a series of meetings and telephone conversations between Dalli, his associate and an EU official, as well as inconsistencies in statements made by Dalli to OLAF, and the nature of the relationship with his associate.

The report also states that Dalli had unofficial discussions with lobbyists interested in his political portfolio, leading to the conclusion he may have violated the commissioner’s code of conduct.

“As a result of the facts highlighted by the Olaf investigation, it can be considered that commissioner Dalli put at risk the image and the reputation of the European Commission in the eyes of the tobacco producers and, potentially, in front of public opinion,” states the report.

The lobbying transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has joined in calls for an investigation into the issue. “It is imperative that the European Parliament sets up an investigative committee to establish the facts and to hold accountable those responsible for mistakes,” states CEO.

However, in April a proposal by the Green party to create a special committee was rejected by other political parties.

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Comments (4)

Janas Cord Jr.

- Thu 02-May-2013, 10:37

The Secretary General of OLAF Giovanni Kessler said that OLAF had only an investigative role and even pointed out that there was no conclusive evidence that the Commissioner Mr John Dalli was involved. Now one asks, is Giovanni Kessler trying to exculpate himself of the pressure put on Mr Dalli to resign? If so, then why all those clowning gestures, more synonymous with a buffoon, during the press conference announcing that OLAF investigated a case of possible fraud involving the Snus lobbying?

victor borg

- Thu 02-May-2013, 10:30

I have to agree that all this has started from inside Gonzipn and indications are all this happened so Dr.Tonio Borg takes Dalli's place and making it possible for Dr. Simon Busuttil becoming deputy leader.

mario salerno

- Wed 01-May-2013, 23:56

As from day one , I believed that Mr Dalli was innocent. He was framed up . His strong values are known to everyone. He has so much to give to our country .

Thorny

- Wed 01-May-2013, 20:07

It is now high time that Barroso explains himself over these dysfunctions and that he takes responsibility for his actions,” said Staes.

U MHUX BARROSO biss.... anki Gonzi! Kien gie anki Malta Barroso dak iz-zmien, tghid John Dalli ma kienx diskuss mal Prim ta' dak iz-zmien Dr. Lawrence Gonzi........ U L'GHAGGLA LI TNEHHA bija John Dalli minn Kummissarju, twarrab Tonio Borg u ingab lura Malta SIMON BUSUTTIL !

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