The Malta Independent 24 February 2020, Monday

Silvio Zammit asks Belgian police to investigate ‘illegal’ wiretap by tobacco lobbyist

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 15 March 2016, 17:35 Last update: about 5 years ago

Silvio Zammit, who stands charged with soliciting a multi-million bribe to reverse an EU ban on smokeless tobacco, has filed a complaint with the Belgian police, asking them to investigate how a tobacco lobbyist recorded a telephone conversation between them. The conversation was allegedly recorded at the behest of OLAF investigator Giovanni Kessler, who has had his immunity partially lifted.

In the telephone call, Mr Zammit allegedly asked Inge Delfosse for €10 million in return for setting up a meeting with his boss - former EU Commissioner John Dalli - over the possibility of lifting an EU ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco. The wiretap - considered illegal by Belgian authorities - formed part of the report that led to Dalli's unceremonious dismissal.Kessler had told 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. On the day he had phone calls with Inge Delfosse, Zammit was also in contact with Dalli, Kessler had said.

In the police report, seen by this newspaper, Mr Zammit said: "On 29 March I had several calls with Inge Delfosse of the European Smokeless Tobacco Council. When I was investigated by OLAF of the European Commission I was notified that the named Inge Delfosse has recorded our phone call. During this phone call she never notified me that the phone call was recorded .... I give you the copies of the report of OLAF which provides she has recorded my phone call. I insist that she is interviewed about the way she obtained my phone call. In accordance with Belgian law she cannot record a phone call without me being notified of it." Mr Zammit was aided by his lawyer, Edward Gatt.It is understood that a criminal case against Inge Delfoss could expose Kessler's involvement in the illegal wiretap issue. The lifting of his immunity has now exposed the OLAF investigator to criminal prosecution.

EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli was forced to resign four 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 is 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 wrong-doing 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. 

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