Journalist-activist Manuel Delia has revealed he’s privy to the evidence police had gathered against former European Commissioner John Dalli, describing it as “crushing”.
“In December 2012, six weeks after John Dalli’s dismissal in disgrace from the European Commission, the Malta police held evidence that John Dalli held several ‘informal meetings’ he was never supposed to have when as EU Commissioner he was piloting a new directive regulating smoking,” Delia wrote on his blog.
“At the time, manufacturers of a tobacco product cold snus were interested in an outcome favourable to their interests.”
“These ‘meetings’ included [Dalli’s former aide] Silvio Zammit who witnesses testified had solicited a €10 million bribe from lobbyists for the snus manufacturers, in exchange for John Dalli’s support for the outcome they were looking for.”
“Indeed, in December 2012 the Malta police separately charged Silvio Zammit for bribery and trading in influence.”
Dalli, a former Nationalist Minister, was forced to resign from his post as European Health Commissioner back in 2012, because of an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF into a complaint by a Swedish tobacco producer, which alleged that he had sought a payment to influence possible future legislation on tobacco products.
Delia said police investigations, which were led by then inspector (now police commissioner) Angelo Gafa had found that Dalli had repeatedly told OLAF he had no idea there had been a corruption investigation.
However, he said police also found evidence that Zammit had informed Dalli about the investigations well before Dalli spoke to OLAF, which would imply that Dalli had lied to the EU anti-fraud office.
He added that police also found evidence of several meetings between Dalli and Zammit well after Dalli knew that OLAF was investigating the case. Moreover, the police were in possession of a document with questions that Zammit was asked to put to Dalli, along with replies to those questions scribbled in Zammit’s own handwriting.
“The document is damning evidence that shows John Dalli’s direct and personal involvement in the crime of trading in influence,” Delia wrote.
“Silvio Zammit tried hard to insist that John Dalli had nothing to do with the solicitation of a €10 million bribe from the snus manufacturers. He often denied John Dalli’s involvement altogether.”
“But there was one time when he was far from certain. Silvio Zammit was asked by OLAF investigators if he had put the five questions in the document to John Dalli. Silvio Zammit’s answer was ‘I don’t know if I put these questions to the Commissioner, it could be yes’.”
John Rizzo, the police commissioner at the time, has confirmed that he had planned to prosecute Dalli and that he had informed then Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia shortly after PL won the 2013 general election.
Delia said this decision was taken after meetings held at the police depot, which were chaired by Rizzo and attended by deputy police commissioner Joe Cachia, then-Attorney General Peter Grech, and then-deputy Attorney General (now magistrate) Donatella Frendo Dimech.
“They heard a presentation from then Inspector, now police chief, Angelo Gafà. There was no doubt in the minds of any of them: John Dalli must be charged.
“There was no question of political interference at the time. Malta’s government was headed by Lawrence Gonzi, the prime minister and party colleague who nominated John Dalli to the post in Brussels from which he had been fired just 6 weeks earlier in disgrace. No one at the police or the prosecutor’s office was going to spare Lawrence Gonzi political embarrassment just months before a general election.”
However, Dalli declared he was too sick to travel to Malta. After the PL won the election, Rizzo was removed as police commissioner and his successor Peter Paul Zammit ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to continue with the case.
Rizzo has said that Dalli returned to Malta the day after he resigned as police commissioner.
In a recent podcast with Jon Mallia, Delia had said he remembers foul play by Dalli in the 1990s back when Delia was a ministry secretariat and Dalli was Finance Minister.
Delia said that Dalli had tried to poach his colleague and had promised him would give him some extra cash on the side every month which wouldn’t be declared.
“He was Finance Minister at the time and I was shocked when I found out, but I didn’t do anything,” Delia said.
The second part of Delia’s podcast will be published tonight.