Following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Maltese newspapers united behind a common message last Sunday – a black front page with the words “The Pen Conquers Fear”.
Now former European Commissioner John Dalli has turned this dictum on its head, telling Lovin Malta in an e-mail that “resilience conquers the poison pen”.
“Your site has still not carried my reaction to the non-story that the usual cabal with this perverse psychopathic hate against me have circulated,” he said. “This is the manifestation of utter hypocrisy by these proponents of free speech.”
Dalli published a press release defending his innocence after Lovin Malta reported how a Swedish newspaper had published a recording in which Dalli’s former canvasser Silvio Zammit had allegedly solicited €10 million from a smokeless tobacco lobbyist.
In the recording, Zammit can be telling Inge Delfosse of the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC) that the EU-wide ban on snus, a smokeless form of tobacco only available in Sweden, could be lifted if she paid him an initial €10 million to set up a meeting with the then-health commissioner.
According to testimony in a damning report by the EU’s anti-corruption office OLAF, Zammit had also asked Delfosse to pay a further €50 million after the law was changed. This OLAF investigation prompted then European Commission president Jose Manuel Barrosso to force Dalli to resign as health commissioner back in October 2012.
Zammit has since been charged in the Maltese courts with requesting €60 million in bribes from ESTOC and the snus-producing company Swedish Match, while John Dalli has repeatedly denied having ever spoken to Zammit about money or snus.
Silvio Zammit has been charged in court with soliciting multimillion bribes. Photo: Times of Malta
Silvio Zammit refused to answer a set of questions posed to him by Lovin Malta in relation to the phone call leak, saying he wants to await the courts’ verdict before commenting.
However, Dalli sent out a press release in which he claimed to be the victim of a mudslinging campaign that takes place whenever OLAF’s outgoing director-general Giovanni Kessler “finds himself in trouble”.
The “trouble” in question was ostensibly a reference to the European Commission’s decision to lift Kessler’s immunity following a demand by the Belgian public prosecutor, who had accused him of illegally eavesdropping on the private phone call between Zammit and Delfosse.
Following a defamation complaint by John Dalli, Kessler, Delfosse and other employees from Swedish Match are now being arraigned in the Belgian courts.
John Dalli claims to be the victim of a frame-up orchestrated by outgoing OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler (pictured above)
Dalli said he can supply the press with two tapes which will bolster his own case. He said one of them shows how OLAF and Swedish Match had colluded with each other, and how Swedish Match employees had accused OLAF and the Maltese police of corrupting them to lie. He said he can also pass on a tape of Kessler’s interview with Gayle Kimberley, the former Maltese representative of Swedish Match, who later turned prosecution witness in Zammit’s arraignment.
“Apart from showing how Kessler was imposing his own answers to his questions, the tape also shows that Kessler visited Gayle at her home on his own when he was in Malta to interview Zammit,” Dalli said.
However, when Lovin Malta asked him to forward a copy of the tapes in question, Dalli refused to do so and instead said: “Your site has still not carried my reaction to the non-story that the usual cabal with this perverse psychopathic hate against me have circulated. This is the manifestation of utter hypocrisy by these proponents of free speech. Resilience conquers the poison pen.”