The European Union said it was “politically untenable” for John Dalli to remain an EU commissioner after findings of a fraud investigation were revealed last week as Dalli maintained that he was pushed to stand down.
Dalli resigned as commissioner for health and consumer policy on Oct. 16 after a report by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, said he had been aware of attempts by a Maltese entrepreneur to sell access to him. Dalli has refuted the allegations.
“On the basis of these elements” in the OLAF report, “we consider that it was politically untenable for Mr. Dalli to remain in his sensitive function,” Olivier Bailly, a spokesman for the EU, told reporters today in Brussels. “He stopped being a commissioner on Tuesday.”
Giovanni Kessler, director general of OLAF, said on Oct. 17 that the agency had uncovered “a number of unambiguous pieces of circumstantial evidence” indicating that Dalli was aware of the effort to sell access to him to lobbyists. The report has been sent to the judicial authorities of Malta, the EU said.
“We have no evidence of any illegal behavior by Mr. Dalli,” Bailly said. “The possible legal consequences of all this will have to be decided in Malta.”
Jose Barroso, president of the 27-member European Commission, today endorsed the candidacy of Tonio Borg to replace Dalli on the commission. Borg, foreign minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, was put forward over the weekend, Bailly said. Maros Sefcovic, commissioner for inter-institutional relations, has taken over Dalli’s portfolio until a new commissioner is appointed.
In a letter to Barroso, Dalli said his resignation was “explicitly demanded” by the commission president and that he was refused access to the OLAF report. The undated letter was released today by Dalli.
His resignation is the first by an EU commissioner over corruption allegations since the entire commission resigned in 1999 after several members were accused of financial wrongdoing.
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