- John Dalli, a Maltese politician, was the EU Health Commissioner until he was sacked by Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, in October 2012.
- A close friend of Dalli named Silvio Zammit was caught on tape trying to solicit a €60m bribe from the snus company Swedish Match in return for Dalli overturning the EU ban on snus. Swedish Match recorded this conversation and immediately handed them over to the EU fraud office, OLAF.
- Telephone records show that Zammit and Dalli had clusters of conversations on the same days that Zammit had conversations with Swedish Match.
- John Dalli "took at least two trips to the Bahamas as part of an effort to arrange the transfer of tens of millions of dollars." Dalli claims he was setting up a charity... in violation of the EU code of conduct... with a international con artist. (Read more about these secret trips here.)
- Dalli has not been prosecuted—there is only "strong circumstantial evidence" that he was involved—but OLAF's file on the Bahamas affair remains open and Zammit is in front of the judge in Malta.
In court last week, a new piece of evidence came to light:
Two new witnesses from the Cabinet of the former Commissioner testified that Dalli inquired about lifting the ban on snus in January and February 2012. This is new evidence of relevance, since Dalli had always maintained that the last time he took an interest in the snus issue was at the meeting on January 6, 2012 with Zammit and a lobbyist.
It doesn't look too good for Dalli, does it? Perhaps fearing that this new evidence has brought his own day in the dock a little closer, Dalli launched into one of his characteristically strange rants. He has called almost everybody involved in this investigation a liar, and now he is saying the same of the two new witnesses. Meanwhile, he has accused OLAF's head Giovanni Kessler of perjury and claims that the OLAF report is a "fraud". In his view, everybody but Zammit should be facing prosecution.
"I believe that the conclusion of these procedures should be judicial action against Kessler and against the employees of Swedish Match, Hildingsson, Gabrielsson and Delfosse who have concocted and implemented the setup against me. Not to mention politicians and functionaries in Brussels and in Malta who were privy to this fraud."
Dalli's conspiracy theories are the stuff of legend (Barroso has called them "incomprehensible"). He is, of course, unable to supply any motive for why the EU's corruption watchdog would hound an innocent man for three years, nor why Barroso would decide to sack him without good reason, nor why Swedish Match would invent a story that could not possibly benefit them. Nor has he come up with an explanation for the crucial and undeniable fact that his mate was recorded on tape promising to arrange something that only Dalli could deliver. For €60 million.
As Kessler said recently, isn't it telling that Dalli has turned on everybody except the man who got him in this trouble...
"What would you do if a former friend betrayed you and that cost you your career?” Giovanni Kessler asked. “He could have taken Mr Zammit to court for tarnishing his reputation... He could have accused him of trading in influence to his detriment. There is no question that Silvio Zammit has damaged Mr Dalli, greatly. Mr Dalli also has the right I think, to be a civil party in the criminal case. It would give Mr Dalli the right to have a lawyer in that case putting questions to Mr Zammit. He didn’t. Why?”
As the trial has gone on, the penny has started to drop even amongst Dalli's biggest supporters that their man might have been sacked with good reason. After hearing the evidence laid out in court, New Europe, a website which has been strongly pro-Dalli in its coverage to date, ended its report with a mea culpa.
At this point New Europe has to clarify that in extensively covering the Dalli case in the past, had no idea of the parallel games of Silvio Zammit and was not aware of all such details.
Our interventions stemmed from the fact that the OLAF report did not accuse directly Dalli but referred only to “circumstantial evidences” and verified that Dalli had not changed the Directive and did not take any bribe.
... Indeed, with the new facts unveiled in the Maltese Court, it is obvious that Jose Barroso whom we have strongly criticized, acted on moral grounds, ignoring the rules. Obviously he knew or suspected the truth, which we did not
New Europe are not the only ones with egg on their faces after falling to realise that Dalli was toxic. There are a whole bunch of NGOs and MEPs—not to mention Private Eye—who chose to believe Dalli's bonkers conspiracy theory because it fit their narrative of industry corruption. It was, however, clear from the start that it was Zammit who solicited the bribe and Swedish Match that blew the whistle. If anyone has been wrongly hounded, it's Giovanni Kessler who has been the subject of some extraordinary attacks by Green MEPs.
The Zammit case continues. Fortunately for Dalli's erstwhile cheerleaders, it is only being reported in the Maltese press. The last word should go to the Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who has followed this story like a hawk from day one...
There is something very wrong with John Dalli, properly wrong, and if you think about it, this may well have been the case from the start.
Let justice be done, right Monika?
Dalli is damned
More Dalli and Snusgate
Private Eye's pisspoor Snusgate report
What's got into Private Eye?
John Dalli - the facts finally emerge
John Dalli does a lot for charity but doesn't like to talk about it
John Dalli's conspiracy theory