The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

Updated: Recording allegedly shows Silvio Zammit’s offer of €10m for proposed lifting of ban on snus

Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 16:40 Last update: about 12 months ago

A phone call recording in which a man who is allegedly John Dalli's former canvasser Silvio Zammit is heard soliciting a '10 million' (euro) bribe from a smokeless tobacco lobbyist, believed to be former ESTOC secretary-general Inge Delfosse, has been published on a Swedish news website.

The woman in the recording seems shocked by the figure purportedly requested for proposing the lifting of the EU ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco, and access to high-level meetings.

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"I'm sorry, I'm a poor blonde...I'm a bit shocked here, I thought we could win this case without having to pay," she says, to which the man asks if she is sitting down.

In March 2016, Silvio Zammit had asked Belgian police to investigate an 'illegal' wiretap by tobacco lobbyist.

The conversation was allegedly recorded at the behest of OLAF investigator Giovanni Kessler, who has had his immunity partially lifted.

The wiretap - considered illegal by Belgian authorities - formed part of the report that led to John Dalli's unceremonious dismissal from the post of European Commissioner.

Kessler would later tell a Maltese court that Zammit had tried to solicit a €60 million bribe from Swedish Match. When his request was refused, he turned to ESTOC, the European smokeless tobacco council.

EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli was forced to resign five years ago after a probe led by Kessler linked him to a tobacco lobbyist at a time when the EU was introducing tougher anti-smoking legislation.

The OLAF report, which was leaked to the press in April 2013, claimed that Zammit had approached tobacco producer Swedish Match and proposed making use of his contacts with John Dalli to overturn an EU ban on snus. The OLAF report said Dalli was not involved but knew what was going on. The same report was branded as "biased" and "amateurish" by a number of MEPs.

John Dalli has categorically denied any wrongdoing and filed a complaint in a Belgian court that led to the demand that Kessler's immunity be lifted. He has also instituted a defamation case against Swedish Match and a separate case in the European Court of Justice against the Commission to annul the decision by former EC President Jose Manuel Barroso to force his resignation. Dalli says that he is the victim of a frame-up.

Zammit was charged with bribery and trading in influence in Maltese courts, but his cases remain pending four years later. Zammit's lawyers filed a constitutional application claiming his right to a fair trial has been breached by Delfosse's refusal to testify in Malta.

In 2016, Zammit also filed a criminal complaint alleging that Delfosse had surreptitiously recorded phone calls with him without his knowledge. 

In a statement, Dalli said that the full transcript of this telephone conversation was included as an annex in the OLAF report which, although OLAF has refused to make public, was in fact leaked in April 2013 by a local newspaper

"As I have stated in other occasions, these organised mudslinging campaigns take place when Kessler is in trouble," he said.

"I resigned to be able to clear my name.  OLAF keep insisting that they have never accused me of any corrupt practice.  In fact they affirmed in their report that I was not involved in the soliciting of bribes, that no money changed hands and that the decision making process within my services was intact," he said.


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