The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

TMIS Editorial - John Dalli case: Get on with it!

Sunday, 14 November 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 20 days ago

After years of waiting and countless calls on the police force to arraign John Dalli over his alleged involvement in a bribery case, the former European Commissioner was finally taken to court on Friday.

Only the case was immediately put off because of what can only be described as sheer incompetence by the prosecution.

The arraignment had already been postponed in September, at the request of the prosecution. When the arraignment finally took place on Friday, the Attorney General’s office informed the magistrate that it was requesting an adjournment because it was still unsure about whether Dalli has diplomatic immunity as a former top EU official.

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The case in question revolves around an alleged €60m bribe request by Dalli’s former aide, Silvio Zammit, to get Dalli to overturn a ban on snus – a type of smokeless tobacco.

Prosecutors believe that Dalli was aware of the bribery attempt. Despite Dalli’s protestations of innocence, we had been told, in December 2012, that the Police had enough evidence to take the former EU Commissioner to court.

Those words came from then police commissioner John Rizzo, who was sacked soon after Joseph Muscat became Prime Minister in 2013.

Peter Paul Zammit, considered by many to have been a puppet for Castille, was appointed police chief in April 2013.

A few days later, Dalli, who had spent four months abroad saying he was unable to travel due to health reasons, returned to Malta.

Zammit later said there was not enough evidence to arraign Dalli and no steps were taken against the former minister. The other three police commissioners that succeeded Zammit also failed to prosecute.

Then finally, a few weeks ago, it was reported that Dalli would finally be prosecuted, this time by a police force led by Angelo Gafa, the same man who had investigated Dalli in 2012.

But when the sitting began on Friday, the AG brought up the immunity issue, stalling the case and infuriating the presiding magistrate. “Divine providence” intervened once again.

We truly doubt that EU laws are there to protect officials who are accused of corruption, fraud and bribery, and we believe that the AG’s office has got this all wrong. If anything, it should have checked about this nine years ago, not now, after the arraignment took place.

What happened on Friday was hugely embarrassing for the authorities tasked with prosecuting alleged corruption.

This latest development can only be described as surreal and people are right to wonder whether Dalli is indeed “untouchable” and has people looking out for him and making sure he never faces justice.

And mind you, the snus case is not the only scandal Dalli was linked to. The list is never-ending.

Just recently, it was revealed that Dalli had failed to declare an offshore company he owned while he was a Member of Parliament. In fact, he had used a nominee company to hide his ownership of the firm. When asked by journalists why he had kept this company secret and what he had used it for, Dalli told them it was “none of your business” and actually had the gall to say that the journalists are the “corrupt” ones.

But the person saying that journalists are corrupt and bribed, has been linked to many other scandals, including the Mater Dei weak concrete fiasco, with that particular tender being awarded to his brother, Sebastian Dalli.

There were others – the Daewoo and Lowenbrau scandals and a 2014 scandal in which government awarded a contract to a company that was a shareholder in a firm owned by one of Dalli’s daughters.

Dalli also served as consultant to a woman who ran a Ponzi scheme. When photos of Dalli and Eloise Corbin Klein emerged, Dalli said he had only travelled to the Bahamas to work on a “philanthropic initiative”.

In 2013, despite years of criticising him and claming he was corrupt, the Labour Party, or rather Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appointed Dalli as government consultant on health. Though he says he was not involved, government soon after sold three state hospitals to VGH, in what has turned out to be one of the biggest privatisation scandals.

Yet despite the chequered history, Dalli always seems to evade justice.

And that’s not even the most worrying part. The most worrying part is the fact that the authorities have taken nine years (and counting) to take action against someone they had “enough evidence” on.

So this can only mean that they will take a lot longer to prosecute politicians against whom they say not enough evidence exists. People like Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat and others, who have been instrumental in earning Malta the reputation of a corrupt state, always seem to evade the supposedly long arm of the law.

 

 

 

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