Updated to include John Dalli’s counter-reply.
The author of the report on the rule of law in Malta, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in May, has refused to apologise to former European Commissioner John Dalli for referring to him as “disgraced” saying it was “fair comment”.
Instead, Omtzigt answered Dalli’s demand for an apology in a letter where he reminded the former European Commissioner of the list of reasons that earned him the title.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur authored the report ‘Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges’ that was adopted in May, imposing a three month deadline for the launch of an independent public inquiry into the journalist’s assassination.
Dalli accused Omtzigt in a public letter of repeating allegations fed to him by Maltese “hate mongers”. In his reply, Omtzigt defines Dalli’s correspondence as expressed in “somewhat lurid and polemical language”, going far beyond the scope of the report, and imagining a “prompter” that did not exist.
My reply to the letter of Mr. John Dalli about my report on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond pic.twitter.com/nxAeEf2HyG
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) August 7, 2019
“You do not state the name of the person whom you suspect of having played this role… That is, however, by the bye, as nobody, whether from Malta or elsewhere, ‘prompted’ me to include certain information or to use certain expressions in my report,” Omtzigt said.
He referred to the OLAF report in 2012 that concluded the actions of the former Commissioner had “put at risk the image and the reputation of the European Commission”.
Omtzigt quoted excerpts from the report: “The inconsistency of [your] statements, together with the findings of this investigation relating to [you], could be seen as a serious breach of [your] duty to behave in keeping with the dignity and the duties of [your] office.”
He reminds Dalli that the EU General Court dismissed all his criticism of the handling of his case by OLAF and the European Commission.
“Whilst you may not accept these judgments, I have no reason not to do so myself,” Omtzigt said in his letter to Dalli.
He went on to refer to the report last March by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body GRECO: “Former officials who have been embroiled in dubious dealings or actions are given prominent governmental functions, in the absence of any policy requiring a clean reputation to be appointed at the highest levels. For instance, a former Maltese Health Commissioner of the European Commission, who was forced to resign by President Barroso following allegations of bribery from the tobacco industry, was appointed special adviser for health matters in the Maltese Government in 2013”.
Omtzigt said he was also concerned about findings by the European Parliament’s inquiry committee last year, which found it “disturbing” that Dalli was made an advisor to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “instead of being prosecuted for bribery and corruption charges, despite substantial evidence in investigations and reports by OLAF and Malta’s own FIAU”.
“In these circumstances, I feel that my use of the word ‘disgraced’, whilst succinct as a description of your situation, was well within the bounds of fair comment,” Omtzigt told Dalli.
Referring to Dalli’s account at Pilatus Bank, the Special Rapporteur notes that Dalli did not deny its existence. “I would agree that it seems peculiar for a person in your position to engage with a bank such as Pilatus, whose business model and operations have since been exposed as highly dubious to say the least.”
The third issue Dalli raised was the Special Rapporteur’s reference to Caruana Galizia’s deduction that Dalli played a part in the awarding of a government contract to Vitals Global Healthcare.
“I included this reference as a possible identification of the third person involved in the particular activity mentioned, given Caruana Galizia’s outstanding overall track record as an investigative journalist. This does not mean that I find your involvement to have been proven; for the purposes of my report, which were to describe the strong suspicions of impropriety surrounding the VGH contract, it was not necessary to pursue the point thus far,” the Special Rapporteur said.
The former European Commissioner replied to Omtzigt’s letter within hours. “You copied the derogatory, hateful, vindictive vitriol of the perverse blogger,” Dalli said referring to Caruana Galizia who was assassinated in a car bomb in Malta on 16 October 2017.
“The megalomaniac hate mongers in Malta are trying to spin this in Malta and you played to their tune,” Dalli added.
Insisting that he tendered his resignation because he wanted to prove his innocence, despite a European Court dismissing his claims, Dalli also blamed PN MEP David Casa and former Socialist MEP Ana Gomes.
Read John Dalli’s reply here.