The European Court of Justice has concluded that there were indeed grounds for an investigation into the actions of disgraced former European Commissioner John Dalli, in a judgment that rejected all of his claims.
Dalli had applied for compensation and damages of €1.9 million as well as requesting that the decision to force him to resign, taken by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso be annulled.
The Court rejected each of the seven claims made by Dalli on: The unlawfulness of the decision to open an investigation, flaws in the characterisation of the investigation and the unlawful extension of it, the breach of the principles governing the gathering of evidence and distortion and falsification of the evidence, an infringement of the rights of the defence and of the principle of presumption of innocence and of the right to the protection of personal data.
The Court held its decision that the investigation was warranted, adding that an investigation by OLAF was only opened where there were “sufficiently serious suspicions relating to acts of fraud, corruption, or other illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the Union.”
It adds that, “In the present case, the opinion on the opening of the investigation provided by the Investigation Selection and Review Unit, on which the Director-General of OLAF relied to adopt the decision to open the investigation, states that the information provided was sufficient to open an investigation”.
The Court also said Dalli failed to show the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of OLAF or the Commission.
The judgment also referred to his claims as “wrong”, “not relevant”, and that OLAF were right to investigate because “it cannot be considered that OLAF should have doubted the credibility of those allegations”.
It also notes that Dalli was “wrong to claim” that the allegations against him did not concern “serious matters” that did not justify the opening of an investigation. The Court states that the need for facts is not a condition for the opening of an investigation, and that the purpose of the investigation is to establish and investigate facts.
In 2010, Dalli was appointed to the European Commission as Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. Then in October, the EU’s anti-fraud office (OLAF) delivered a report to the Commission alleging that Dalli had asked for €60 million from Swedish Match, a tobacco company, in return for his influence on EU tobacco regulations.
Shortly after, he was told to resign by Barroso.
The OLAF report stated that while no money had changed hands and no decision making processes were jeopardised, Dalli knew what was going on. Dalli maintains that he had no knowledge of the alleged bribery.
In December of that year, Dalli filed a case in the European Court of Justice against the Commission to ask that the decision to force his resignation, taken by Barroso was reversed. The case was dismissed in 2015 and Dalli was ordered to pay the costs. He then instituted another case in the Belgian Criminal Court against Belgian Match for defamation, later extending the scope to include OLAF as well.
In 2013, Maltese police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit said that there was no evidence to arraign Dalli. Then in 2016, a report on Dalli was delivered to the Maltese authorities by OLAF. Former Maltese police chief John Rizzo stated that there was enough evidence to prosecute Dalli and he could not understand why criminal charges had not brought against him.
Dalli may still appeal the decision.