Following the recommendation by Advocate General Maciej Szpunar in September 2020, the European Court of Justice has dismissed the latest appeal brought by former European Commissioner John Dalli.
Dalli had brought a string of court cases before the European Court of Justice. In his latest appeal, he had asked the Court to reconsider the judgment of 6 June 2019, whereby the Court had concluded that there were indeed grounds for an investigation into his conduct as European Commissioner.
The case dates back to the 2012 bribery scandal in which Dalli was embroiled.
In 2010, Dalli was appointed to the European Commission as Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. In 2012, tobacco producer Swedish Match complained that Silvio Zammit, a Maltese businessman with ties to Dalli, had requested a bribe of €60 million from the European Smokeless Tobacco Council, a lobby otherwise known as Estoc, to ensure that Dalli would kill an EU law banning the sale of snus tobacco.
The complaint prompted the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, to launch an investigation into allegations that Dalli’s meeting with tobacco lobbyists was inappropriate. Shortly afterwards, 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 maintained that he had no knowledge of the alleged bribery and claimed that he did not resign but had been fired – an important legal distinction in his fight for compensation.
In December 2012, Dalli filed a claim for damages with the EU’s General Court. His legal team sought the annulment of Barroso’s “oral decision […] to exercise his prerogative to require the applicant to submit his resignation as a member of the Commission”.
On 12 May 2015, the EU Court of Justice presented their conclusions in Dalli’s unfair dismissal case. “The Court finds that Mr Dalli resigned voluntarily, no formal request for his resignation having been made by President Barroso,” the court ruled. Dalli went on to appeal this decision in July 2015 but it was dismissed in April 2016.
In June 2017, Dalli then brought another action before the General Court for compensation for the damage caused to him, in particular non-material damage, caused mainly by the alleged unlawful conduct of the Commission, including OLAF, over the immediate termination of his appointment as a Member of the Commission in 2012.
Again, the former EU Commissioner applied for compensation to the tune of €1 million as well as requesting that the decision to force him to resign taken by Barroso be annulled.
In June 2019, the Court rejected each of the seven claims made by Dalli and concluded that the investigation was warranted. Dalli, once again, appealed the decision.
In today’s judgement, the Court has once again rejected the seven arguments invoked by Dalli: “six of them related to the conduct of OLAF and the seventh to the findings made by the General Court concerning the reality of the damage alleged and the existence of a causal link between that institution’s conduct and the damage invoked”.