The only man facing charges over the Dalligate scandal, Silvio Zammit, has claimed he was a middleman in the affair acting on the “instructions” of Gayle Kimberley, the freelance legal adviser to the Swedish tobacco company that first reported the case.

Mr Zammit’s lawyers, Edward Gatt and Kris Busietta, claimed, in a judicial protest filed in court that Dr Kimberley had directed their client to ask for money for his “lobbying services” and that this money was going to be split between Mr Zammit and Dr Kimberley “on the lawyer’s instructions”. The statement challenges the position of Maltese police, who have so far been treating Dr Kimberley exclusively as a witness, despite the recommendation in the original investigation by the EU Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF) that she was involved in the matter and that charges of trading in influence should also be issued against her.

It’s absurd to think that a 48-year-old businessman would take instructions… from a young lawyer- Giannella de Marco

Mr Zammit, 48, has faced charges over allegedly asking representatives from the tobacco firm Swedish Match for a bribe of €60 million to help lift a ban on snus – a form of orally-consumed tobacco which is banned under current EU rules.

OLAF’s investigation report did not make recommendations for criminal charges to be issued against the former European Commissioner John Dalli, but concluded there was “unambiguous” circumstantial evidence suggesting he knew of the bribe request, and this forced his resignation in October.

But in their protest, Mr Zammit’s lawyers referred to the latest announcement by Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit – that there was insufficient evidence to charge the former European Commissioner – and demanded that their client’s case be re-examined.

In the protest, filed against the Prime Minister, the Justice Minister, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner, they claimed their client was the victim of a “plan” by the “previous Nationalist administration” to damage Mr Dalli, and that their client had been arraigned to pave the way for the latter.

They pointed out that the police had previously also ruled out charging Dr Kimberley. “In light of this, the plaintiff cannot understand how he… ended up facing serious charges on his own when it was declared there is no criminal case against all those somehow connected to this case.”

When contacted for a reaction to Mr Zammit’s claim, Dr Kimberley’s lawyer, Giannella de Marco, said her client rejected the suggestion flatly, adding she found it absurd to think that a 48-year-old seasoned businessman would take instructions over “payments for his services” from a young lawyer.

“My client has been grilled by OLAF and by the police officers from the Maltese team and has given evidence under oath on this matter and this has never emerged. On the other hand, this is the first time Mr Zammit is making such a claim, despite having himself had the opportunity to give evidence under oath as did my client.”

She also pointed out that, independently of her client’s testimony, the evidence of two individuals who claimed Mr Zammit asked for the money, at no point implicated her client.

Referring back to Mr Zammit’s own replies to OLAF’s questions, she pointed to a particular answer he had given in which he claimed to have asked a Swedish Match representative for €100 millon, €60 million, €50 million, and also that he asked for such an exorbitant sum because he wanted to get the snus people off his back.

“How would this make sense if my client was directing Mr Zammit?” she asked.

The Sliema restaurateur had also claimed during investigations that he intended sharing part of the money with one of the snus lobbyists he was dealing with.

Mr Zammit’s defence lawyers, however, have been pointing in the direction of Dr Kimberley in the past months, indicating in their line of questioning that they may have material which they could release further down the line.

According to evidence presented in court, Mr Zammit allegedly made two bribe requests.

The first was on 13 January, during a meeting in Malta with Swedish Match representative Johan Gabriellson, in which he allegedly asked for €60 million, and the second in a phone conversation with snus lobbyist Inge Delfosse, which she recorded, and in which he asked for €10 million to arrange for a meeting with “his boss” with a view to help lift the ban.

mmicallef@timesofmalta.com

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

Support Us