EU Health Commissioner John Dalli resigns in disgrace
Are EU officials stopping the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves?
John Dalli, the European Commissioner, has resigned after the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) completed its investigation after a complaint by snus manufacturer Swedish Match. The EU press release says “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 press release goes onto say “The OLAF final report was sent to the Commission on 15 October. 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.”
I’ve written before on how safer forms of nicotine delivery, such as snus and electronic cigarettes, are sidelined in favour of nicotine delivery products produced by the pharmaceutical industry that spends upwards of €40 million lobbying Brussels to get their corporate case across. Let me remind you that snus, for some unfathomable reason, is banned in every EU country apart from Sweden. There is no medical or social reason for this to be the case.
It seems that Dalli and the intermediary in this case, Silvio Zammit, previously the Deputy Mayor of Sliema (Malta), are both from the Maltese centre-right Partit Nazzjonalista and obviously knew each other. They, in return for a substantial payment, were prepared to broker a meeting between Swedish Match and Dalli with a view to getting the legislation on snus in the EU reformed.
On July 11th of this year Dalli was informed by OLAF’s Director General Giovanni Kessler that he was “considered to be a person concerned in an OLAF investigation related to the attempts to invoice the company Swedish Match and the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC) through an intermediary in paying a bribe to obtain the lifting of the EU ban on snus and to have met with interested parties, lobbyists and economic operators to discuss subjects related to the snus case in a possible infraction of the rules governing the impartiality of the Members of the Commission.”
So it is alleged that Dalli himself solicited Zammit to approach Swedish Match. What does seem certain is that Zammit made the first move. He too has since resigned and the OLAF report is on the desk of the Maltese Attorney-General. The OLAF report does not specifically point the finger at Dalli but “..did consider that he was aware of these events.” Dalli may have used Zammit so as not to be directly implicated.
Dalli has resigned before when in his position as Maltese Foreign Minister. Then it was alleged that he instructed government officials to take a certain airline in which his daughter had an interest. Although I cannot confirm the provenance and it could be fabricated, Malta’s left-leaning newspaper (hence opposed to the Partit Nazzjonalista), L-Orizzont claims to have a copy of Dalli’s Jersey bank account statement containing $300,000.
It does appear that two meetings between Swedish Match lobbyists and Dalli took place. Also, as well as Swedish Match, there is also the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC), the Chairman of which is Patrik Hildingsson – who is also a Public Communications Director for Swedish Match.
One of its employees is Inge Delfosse. She emailed Zammit on the March 15th saying, "Hi Silvio, There are some bad rumours flying around Brussels. Could you let me know whether it would be possible to have an informal meeting with Dalli in Brussels and how much you would charge for that? Let's talk! Cheers, Inge."
There is now a question as to whether Zammit’s terms and conditions crossed the line. Swedish Match reported the encounter in May 2012 which they considered an "indecent proposal which was credible and real enough" and heard nothing until October 15th when OLAF reported. In a press release: "Swedish Match expects that the European Commission in the future will ensure a transparent and legally fair process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive which is expected during the autumn. “
As I wrote in my previous article, my knowledge is of the tobacco control industry, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is a model that infects the entirety of the EU machinery. My guess is that Dalli was guilty of failing the 11th Commandment: don’t get caught.
It was interesting at the press conference this week that journalists raised similar examples of other EU departments lobbying activities and one would be a brave person to lift the stone on the Common Agricultural Policy. One only has to look at the super human efforts of current UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen to see how endemic fraud and corruption is at the EU.
Commenting on South Africa’s corruption and token efforts to clean politics, Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “they stopped the gravy train, just long enough to get on themselves.” We can only hope the EU doesn’t follow suit.
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