In a press statement published today at 4.30pm, the European Commission announced the resignation of Commissioner John Dalli, with immediate effect.
“Mr Dalli informed the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of his decision 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.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time John Dalli has been accused of illegal and thoroughly unsavoury behaviour. Indeed, there is quite a back catalog, with ‘highlights’ including the following allegations:
The AMS Scandal
It is alleged that “he granted and paid Lm400,000 from the Malta Treasury so that the owners of this fictitious business could set up a factory in Malta, this never materialised and the person involved left Malta with the Lm400,000 (920,000 Euros approximately). Dalli was not held accountable for his misjudgement.”
The Water Miracle
During Dalli’s tenure as Minister of Economic Affairs from 1990-1992, it is alleged that Dalli’s “brother Bastjan (Sebastian) was accused of importing a container of approximately 730 boxes of whisky, gin, vodka and rum. Bastjan was accused of avoiding customs duty of Lm24,000 (55,900 Euros approximately). He stated that he had made an order for a container of bottled water but when it arrived it turned out to be a container of spirits. This came to be known as “The Water Miracle”, referring to Christ’s ability of turning water into wine. Again, Dalli was not held accountable for his brother’s involvement. The case against his brother is still pending to date (2008).”
The Mater Dei Hospital Scandals
It is further alleged that during Dalli’s tenure as Minister of Finance from 1992-1996, “the Mater Dei Hospital project was in full swing. This hospital project has been shrouded in political and financial scandals and proven incompetence. The Mater Dei is a six hundred-bed hospital which took more than 17 years to build at a cost of more than Lm250 million (582 million Euros)”.
“Many tenders were issued for this hospital. One major tender for the supply of concrete was awarded to Bastjan Dalli despite the fact that this was not the most competitive. Bastjan was also awarded many road-resurfacing tenders during this period despite his lack of knowledge in such projects. The auditing tender for the hospital went to an accountant’s practice with strong connections to John Dalli…. Many corruption allegations were made. Calls for an investigation were made but these were ignored and no one was held responsible for the alleged corrupt practices.”
The Daewoo Malta Ltd Scandal Part 1
John Dalli was elected and appointed Shadow Finance Minister in 1996. It is alleged that “[a]t the time Dalli was also a consultant for several large companies, one of them being Universal Commerce Agency Ltd. They were importers of motor vehicles such as, Daewoo, Holden, Dacia, Rocsta as well as other consumer white goods. While being a consultant for this company loans in excess of Lm16 million (approximately 37 million Euros) were granted by one of the major Maltese banks (Bank of Valletta) in which the Government had a majority share holding. These loans were granted with very little security and no questions asked. It was also alleged that as “Mr Fix It”, John Dalli received a backhander of more than Lm500,000 (1,200,000 Euros)”.
The Mid Med Bank Privatisation Scandal
It is alleged that “[o]n the 14th April 1999 John Dalli, Marin Hili and Joe N. Tabone sold Mid-Med Bank lock, stock and barrel for a pittance (Lm80 million approximately 184 million Euros). Hili and Tabone were close friends of Dalli and acting as alleged consultants on behalf of the nation. This National Asset was the largest bank in Malta that controlled more than half of the Maltese economy. … John Dalli sold this strategic national asset without having the consent of the Cabinet of Ministers. In fact even the Prime Minister of the time did not know about the sale because he was in hospital undergoing a heart bypass operation. John Dalli informed the Prime Minister of the sale when he was still convalescing. The opposition and other bodies made demands for an investigation. These were bluntly ignored.”
The Daewoo Malta Ltd Scandal Part 2
It is further alleged that “[s]oon after this scandal, rumours of serious irregularities at Universal Commerce Agency Ltd surfaced and were reported to the Prime Minister Dr. E. Fenech Adami and the Police Commissioner. They were informed that clients that bought vehicles were embezzled of more than Lm1.5 million (approximately 3.5 million Euros). To confirm this, the leader of the opposition (Dr. Alfred Sant) placed in parliament a detailed reconciliation that included the names, I.D. and account details of every client that was defrauded by Universal Commerce. This also included the monitory amounts that each client had lost. … Again the opposition demanded an investigation. The Government ignored these.”
Is Dalli his brother’s keeper?
It is further alleged that “[p]rior to being appointed Minister for Social Policy in March 1998, John Dalli’s brother Bastjan had been awarded a contract by the previous minister to build a block of flats in Floriana. On completion, the surveyors condemned the building due to bad workmanship and the wrong concrete mixture used between the floors. The building was not fit for human habitation because it was dangerous.
Social housing was in John Dalli’s portfolio and he was legally bound by law to start proceedings against his brother to recover the millions of Euros that this project had cost the taxpayer.
During the two years John Dalli was minister for social policy he failed to hold his brother accountable for negligence. Court proceedings were never started.”
All of the above allegations come from a blog post written by one Joseph Ellul-Grech, who appears to have pretty good reason to hold a grudge against John Dalli. I leave it to you to decide whether they are likely to be true, or merely the vengeful rantings of an annoyed citizen.
However, many other sources have also questioned the behaviour of John Dalli, and where there’s smoke… but let’s not get into THAT! (Well, not yet, anyway! )
Way back in June of 2011, Dick Puddlecote’s blog reported that John Dalli had told EurActiv that electronic cigarettes are more harmful than smoking tobacco! Then in March this year, Mr Puddlecote refers to Dalli as ‘The EU’s Maltese Muttonhead’, and says:
“It’s incredible that – despite the obscene amounts of money swilling around Brussels – no-one, it would seem, has tapped Dalli on the shoulder to whisper that he is talking demonstrable garbage about e-cigs.
Of course, it’s possible that they have done exactly that. In which case, it’s not just staggering that someone so mind-blowingly incompetent can be the Health Commission for around one billion of the Earth’s population, it is also unutterably terrifying!”
I couldn’t agree more!
On the subject of incompetence, how’s this for a spectacular example: In 2009, Bastjan Dalli, John’s brother, was charged with conspiring to deal in cannabis. According to the Times of Malta, “[h]is arraignment follows that of another four men who were allegedly caught importing what they thought was cannabis but which eventually turned out to be soap.”
Soap??? Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!
Perhaps Bastjan Dalli developed a penchant for soap during his time in the cells, having been refused bail after already fleeing Malta for Libya following his arrest. At his trial, according to MaltaToday he told the court that an unidentified man “had approached him while he was held at Corradino prisons earlier this year, and told him that he would be released if he admitted that his brother, former Minister John Dalli, was involved in the false report compiled by private investigator Joe Zahra.” (This report relates to the Mater Dei Hospital scandal above.)
This article goes on in rather a disturbing way:
“Bastjan Dalli stressed that he was quick to reply and tell the man that he had no intention of doing anything of the sort.
“When Bastjan was released on bail a few weeks later, he spoke to his brother John Dalli who in turn had told him that he would speak to the Police Commissioner about it.
“Dalli was not sure if his brother had in fact spoken to the Commissioner of Police. ‘I cannot trust anybody anymore, and this is why I didn’t say anything about this to anyone until now,’ Bastjan Dalli said.”
No wonder Bastjan feels he cannot trust his brother, since according to another article in the Times of Malta:
“In a statement released after the arraignment, Minister Dalli disassociated himself from the case against his brother.
“‘I learnt about the case from the newspapers a few days ago and immediately spoke to the Prime Minister who confirmed that I was not involved in any way,’ the minister said.”
Since John Dalli was so clearly only interested in keeping his own snout clean (and presumably ready for the trough), but very specifically without the benefit of any of Bastjan’s large quantity of soap, there is not much evidence there of filial support!
Not even all the soap above could clean this mess up!
Others, too, appear to have much to criticise in John Dalli’s behaviour. According to Daphne Caruana Galizia, writing in the Malta Independent on Sunday, in November 2011:
“If John Dalli thinks nothing of breaking the rules in the EU Commission’s book by conducting private business and negotiating sales to governments as the advisor to a technology company, then he would have thought nothing of, in his role as prime minister, buying for Malta a power station built and operated by a company that has or had him on board as a consultant.”
She goes on, almost as if she has witnessed his behaviour in the past…
“He can scream, shout, roll around on the floor, turn red in the face and even write to the Columnists Police to complain that he is put upon, but these are serious matters and the questions raised about them are more serious still.”
She then mentions both Dalli brothers’ apparent fondness for Libya, saying:
“The Gaddafi authorities must have thought that our set-up here in Malta was something like theirs. Nobody in Libya would have touched Bastjan Dalli because he is John Dalli’s brother. We know that was the way things worked there.
“A man with that kind of brass neck and inability to draw the line between public office and private business – or who thinks that drawing the line means leaving ‘John Dalli & Associates’ in the hands of his daughters while proceeding as normal – should never have been made EU Commissioner.”
I can’t help feeling that she doesn’t like him very much.
And now, the European Commission’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, has reported its findings, after a complaint was made to them by, of all people, a tobacco company, Swedish Match. From the Commission’s press release this afternoon:
Swedish Match “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.”
In their own press release today, Swedish Match made the following comments on the Commission’s press statement:
“Swedish Match takes this incident very seriously. The incident was promptly reported to the European Commission, and the report from the Anti-Fraud Office has confirmed that the notification was warranted and that a thorough investigation has been conducted.
“Swedish Match expects that the European Commission in the future will ensure a transparent and legally fair process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive which is expected during the autumn.
“Swedish Match expects that proven scientific facts regarding snus, including the well documented significantly lower health risks compared to cigarettes which are allowed in the EU, are considered in a continued fair legal process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive.”
What a headache this must have been for poor Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.
Can anyone else see a figurative dart board out of shot here, perhaps with a photo of the doomed Commissioner’s face on it?
Because the undeniable reality of this whole sordid mess is that the Commission’s revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive have been utterly derailed. Indeed, the damage may even go far wider than just this, but surely at the very least, the Commission ought to scrap the existing consultation as entirely besmirched by these events, and start again, with the focus properly on public health and scientific evidence? One wonders how else they can possibly proceed, if they are to regain any of the credibility they have so publicly lost. If there were any doubt about this, Dalli himself confirmed the utter futility of the Commission’s attempting to pursue this consultation, in his own statement, published today:
“I will continue to work so that all efforts made by myself and my services to revise the Tobacco Directive will proceed as planned” (our emphasis).