Tuesday 16 October 2012

EU Commissioner resigns in snus scandal

I've waited a long time to use this graphic

Massive corruption scandals at the EU are two a penny, but this one is very interesting. The EU Health Commissioner John Dalli has resigned after the snus company Swedish Match complained that an acquaintance of Dalli's—"a Maltese entrepreneur"—had been soliciting a bribe from them in return for influencing the forthcoming decision about the EU snus ban.

I don't know any more than you at this stage, but this is what the EU press release says:

Commissioner John Dalli has today announced his resignation as a member of the Commission, with immediate effect.

Mr Dalli informed the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of his decision following an investigation by OLAF, the EU's antifraud office, into a complaint made in May 2012 by the tobacco producer, Swedish Match. 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 . As soon as the Commission received the complaint it immediately requested OLAF to investigate.

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. No transaction was concluded between the company and the entrepreneur and no payment was made. The OLAF report did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli but did consider that he was aware of these events.

The OLAF report showed clearly that the European Commission's decision making process and the position of the services concerned has not been affected at all by the matters under investigation.

The final OLAF report and its recommendations are being sent by OLAF to the Attorney General of Malta. It will now be for the Maltese judiciary to decide how to follow up.

After the President informed Mr Dalli about the report received from OLAF, Mr Dalli decided to resign in order to be able to defend his reputation and that of the Commission. Mr Dalli categorically rejects these findings.

Dalli was the main man when it came to revising the Tobacco Products Directive which would look at the snus ban, as well as plain packaging, e-cigarettes, product modification and other new mini-prohibitions.

Interesting times.

See previous posts Nicotine Wars, A Little Snus CoverageTobacco Product Directive Leaked to the Press and Snus: More Prohibition? for a little background.


nisakiman said...

Of equal interest is who will be appointed to take over his position, and will they be a rabid anti?

My guess is that Dalli was poised to take a hefty back-hander if the deal came off. He would have "found new evidence" that snus was after all very low-risk and the impending restrictions could be watered down...

Troughers, the lot of them.

Jean Granville said...

Couldn't Swedish Match just give the moyen and get the ban lifted, for Christ sake?

Anonymous said...

Is this the Jersey Bank account he kept the bribes?


Anonymous said...

This story isnt over,if one solicited a bribe we know good and well its probably established for a long period. I think Big Pharma and even more BRIBES!

Jonathan Bagley said...

This has now been reported on the BBC Health webpage.

nisakiman said...

It would seem that our Mr Dalli has form:


Why is it that everything to do with the EU stinks to high heaven?

Anonymous said...

The Dalli Defense:


New Europe timeline:


Ivan D said...

Interestingly the BBC piece features a link to a 2006 article on snus titled "A safer alternative to smoking?"

I suspect that this is the last time the BBC even mentioned snus but at least someone (almost certainly not Michelle Roberts) is trying.

The item does of course contain the obligatory quote from public health central.

"Experts at one of Sweden's top medical universities say there is no doubt that snus causes cancer of the pancreas and mouth."

No doubt indeed! I have no doubt that the same people are still employed and still misleading the public.

Karl Fasbracke said...

For me the fact that Dalli denies EU citizens access to Snus is the real scandal. But the general public never got interested in that. Now someone shouts "corruption" and everybody pays attention.

Isn't this strange.

Anonymous said...

Karl, you make a very good point. Earlier this week I heard a Dutch reporter say in his introduction that he had, until that evening, never heard of snus. Imagine that, this is the uninformed guy who presents the EU news in Holland! He even said that this fraud case was a textbook example for the open and transparent procedures within the EU... Now that is funny, even Dalli has not read the OLAF report. And as to procedure, if I can believe Dalli, the 24 hours delay he requested from Barosso was turned down. It's a bit weak that Dalli complains after the fact, but maybe a case can be made that he did not resign but was pushed. Anyway, a day later Dalli changed his tune: he was entrapped by Big Tobacco. I read that Maltatoday has an interview with Dalli tomorrow, lets hope that this story stays alive!