Ex-EU Commissioner John Dalli to face criminal charges

John Dalli is expected to face criminal charges in connection with an effort by one of his aides to seek a €60 million bribe in order to assist overturn an EU-wide ban on snus, a type of smokeless tobacco. The case is scheduled to begin on September 17 in a court presided over by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo.

Opposition MP and lawyer Dr Jason Azzopardi disclosed on Monday morning in a Facebook post that the Police had begun criminal procedures against disgraced former EU Commissioner and Cabinet Minister John Dalli.

Dalli was appointed to the European Commission in 2009, in what was generally perceived as an attempt by then-prime minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi to oust his political adversary.

Dalli was the European Commissioner for Health at the time the alleged bribe was offered, and he was in charge of reforming the EU’s tobacco law. In December 2012, his assistant Silvio Zammit was charged with trafficking in influence and participation in a €60 million bribe request from a Swedish cigarette firm.

After an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud body Olaf revealed the bribery attempt, Dalli was compelled to resign as EU commissioner in October 2012. Dalli was embraced into Labour just a few months after quitting as EU commissioner in 2012.

Dalli, on the other hand, evaded prosecution and returned to Malta only when the newly-elected Labour government fired police commissioner John Rizzo. Rizzo has always believed that Dalli had a case to answer for as well. His replacement as police commissioner, Peter Paul Zammit, determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Dalli.

According to The Times of Malta, Dalli now alleges that the charges were dropped as part of an agreement reached between current police chief Angelo Gafa and previous Olaf leader Giovanni Kessler.

Gafa had headed the inquiry into the matter in 2012. Olaf claimed “unambiguous circumstantial evidence” that Dalli was aware of Zammit’s effort to seek the €60 million bribe. Dalli stated that the allegations are all part of a current “campaign” against him. “It’s another forgery,” Dalli told the Times of Malta.

The former EU commissioner, who served in the Maltese administration on multiple occasions, has long been accused of corruption. He resigned as Foreign Minister in 2004 over allegations that he was granting contracts to a tour firm controlled by his daughters. This agency was discovered to have generated over €90,000 in reservations for Dalli’s ministry. Two years later, he ran unsuccessfully for the PN leadership.

Dalli was recruited as Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat’s “consultant” on health reform shortly after resigning from his EU job in 2012. During that time, Malta privatised three public hospitals: St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo General Hospital, after Vitals Global Healthcare was given the contentious contract. VGH has no prior expertise in the medical field. Steward Malta acquired VGH in 2017.

Dr Muscat supported Dalli’s appointment, even when new information emerged concerning three questionable trips Dalli took to the Bahamas before resigning from the European Commission.

In a Facebook post, the PN MP Dr Jason Azzopardi sought explanations from Dr Muscat and former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit. “Because we need to get off the grey list, we need to discover those instances that [disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph] Muscat ordered to be buried,” he added.