Commissioner John Dalli resigns over corruption allegations
EU Health Commissioner John Dalli has resigned as a member of the Commission following an investigation by the EU antifraud agency, OLAF.
16 October 2012. Mr Dalli informed the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of his decision to resign 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 stated that the European Commission's decision making process and the position of the services concerned had 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 of the Commission, Mr Barroso, 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.
Vice President Maros Sefcovic will take over the portfolio of Mr Dalli on an interim basis until a new Commissioner of Maltese nationality is appointed in accordance with article 246 (2) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
The tobacco directive caused uproar in Sweden earlier this year, with local press reporting that European Commission was planning to challenge the country’s exemption to the snus ban.
The EU ban is based on health concerns, although Swedish Match and the Swedish government have long been lobbying to try to shift legislation in a way to allow them to market snus across the EU.
A spokesman for Swedish Match was reported saying: “The outcome of this case is very unfortunate. We’re hoping that from now on the snus ban will receive a proper scientific evaluation.”
Mariann Skar, Eurocare Secretary General commented: ``It is sad to see a health Commissioner having to resign because of bribery scandals. However, it is very alarming to note that it is Swedish Match was raised the allegations in the first place. They have been fighting for years to get snus into the European market. Are they hoping for a new Health Commissioner that would support their economic interests?``
The morning after the European Commission issued a press release announcing the resignation of European Commissioner John Dalli, the Commissioner was interviewed at New Europe's Brussels headquarters on the OLAF investigation, the resignation request from the Commission President, and the fallout on the Tobacco Directive.