After months of rumour and conspiracy theory, the results of OLAF's investigation into former EU Health Commissioner John Dalli have been made public. (For background information go here, here, here and here.) The following points are now clear:
1. John Dalli's friend, Silvio Zammit, attempted to solicit a bribe from Swedish Match, claiming that he was working on behalf of Dalli and could get the snus ban overturned. This is confirmed by a recorded telephone conversation. Neither Zammit nor Dalli's friends in the Maltese and EU media are denying this aspect of the investigation.
2. OLAF has indeed uncovered "unambiguous and converging pieces of circumstantial evidence" that Dalli knew about Zammit's attempt to solicit a bribe. Phone records show that Zammit attempted to call Dalli during his first meeting with a representative of Swedish Match on 21 October 2011 and spoke to him later that afternoon. Thereafter, there were 23 phone calls or text messages between Dalli and Zammit between 5 January 2012 and 17 July 2012. Of these, 17 were made "immediately before, after or on the same day" as key events in the Zammit bribery timeline. These include Zammit calling Dalli just seven minutes after speaking to a representative of Swedish Match on 29 March and Dalli calling Zammit twice later the same day, less than two hours after the (recorded) conversation in which Zammit attempted to solicit the bribe.
If Zammit and Dalli were in constant contact, these phone calls at crucial moments could be dismissed as coincidence. However, they spoke on the telephone relatively infrequently. For example, after 13 April, the phone records show no contact between the pair, but on 17 and 18 June—shortly after OLAF began its investigation—several phone calls were made. There were then no more phone calls until Dalli phoned Zammit on 6 July—a day after OLAF interviewed Zammit as part of the investigation.
3. Dalli has been changing his story. OLAF notes that he initially denied meeting Zammit on the 10 February 2012. He has since admitted that this meeting did, in fact, take place. Other aspects of Dalli's story do not stack up. In light of the phone calls made between Dalli and Zammit in mid-June
and early July, after OLAF had interviewed Zammit and a third Maltese
individual Gayle Kimberley, OLAF says that: "It is not realistic to
believe that they did not talk about the matter under investigation and
OLAF's latest intervention." However, when OLAF interviewed Dalli on the
16 July, he claimed to have been unaware of the investigation until
several days after these phone calls were made.
OLAF has found inconsistencies and contradictions in the accounts of all three 'persons of concern' (Dalli, Zammit and Kimberely). By contrast, the accounts given by representatives of Swedish Match are consistent with each other and with the telephone evidence. The OLAF report supports what Swedish Match has been saying from the outset. They were approached by Zammit, claiming to act on Dalli's behalf, who attempted to solicit a bribe of €60 million to overturn the snus ban. They declined this offer, tape recorded a phone call as evidence and reported him to OLAF.
It remains to be seen whether Dalli's involvement in this sordid affair can be proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. All the evidence in the OLAF report is consistent with the theory that Dalli was, at the very least, aware of Zammit's approaches and failed to report him. There is no doubt that Dalli is/was close to Zammit, and one has to ask why Zammit would request a bribe if he had no way of getting Dalli to overturn the snus ban. If Dalli had not been involved and Swedish Match had paid up, what was he going to do? Run away with €60 million?
It also remains to be seen whether the EU's 'public health' lobbyists and their friends in the media will drop their conspiracy theories, stop their smearing of OLAF and finally distance themselves from this man now that the facts are in the public domain.
You can read the OLAF report here.