The European Commission on Monday faced a grilling from journalists over revelations linking former commissioner John Dalli to a secret offshore company.

A spokesperson for the EU’s executive confirmed Dalli still receives a pension from the commission, despite being forced to resign over a €60 million bribery scandal over which he now faces charges.

The European Commission facing questions from journalists about the Pandora Papers on Monday.

Responding to a raft of questions about the Pandora Papers revelations during a 30-minute grilling, the spokesperson said all former commissioners are entitled to a pension.

Follow-up questions about how much Dalli receives from the commission were not answered.

Questioned if any action would be taken to protect the EU institution's name given the revelations, the spokesperson said the commission is not in a position to announce any action against anyone named in the Pandora Papers leak.

Proof of Dalli’s ownership of the shell company emerged from a new document trove known as the Pandora Papers, covering 11.9 million confidential records leaked from 14 different corporate service providers across the globe.

Times of Malta, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative, revealed how the former minister and European commissioner used nominee services provided by the Panama law firm Alcogal to hide his ownership of the BVI company Westmead Overseas Limited. 

This means that instead of opting to openly appear in any public records as Westmead’s owner, Dalli chose to pay Alcogal to disguise his ownership via a nominee company.

He did, however, show up on Westmead's register of directors together with two nominees from Alcogal.

Owning an offshore company is not in itself illegal, although with Dalli’s history, the steps taken to conceal his ownership of Westmead and his failure to declare the company in his asset filings raise questions about its intended use. 

Dalli has stated that the company, which he says was never used, was set up to hold equity in an undisclosed project. 

The former EU commissioner is expected to be formally charged in November over an attempt by his aide to solicit a €60 million bribe to help overturn an EU-wide ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco. 

At the time the alleged bribe was solicited, Dalli was the European commissioner for health leading reforms to the EU's tobacco directive. 

His aide Silvio Zammit was charged in December 2012 with trading in influence and complicity in the €60 million bribe request made to a Swedish tobacco company. 

Dalli, however, escaped charges at the time, only returning to Malta once the newly-elected Labour government removed police commissioner John Rizzo from his job. 

Rizzo has always maintained that Dalli too had a case to answer to.

Pandora Papers revelations: EU must do more says Von der Leyen                                         

The European Union must do more to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax planning, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday in the wake of revelations in the "Pandora Papers".

Speaking during a visit to Helsinki, von der Leyen condemned the practices brought to light in the huge data leak, which detailed how 35 current and former world leaders have used offshore tax havens to stash assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Tax evasion and aggressive tax planning is completely unacceptable," von der Leyen said. 

"We have in the European Union some of the highest tax transparency standards in the world, but as we see it's not enough, more work is needed."

On Monday von der Leyen referenced an EU proposal on the misuse of shell companies which she said is due by the end of the year.

"We'll come with an answer to the obvious problems that are still out there," von der Leyen said.

 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us