Former European Commissioner John Dalli has defended the practice of allowing canvassers to act as middle-men with international lobbyists, insisting that no money is transacted in these liaisons.
In an interview published in The Times today he also discloses that many more Maltese canvassers took on this role after they were approached by foreign organisations to facilitate access to the former Commissioner.
"I have many other people in Malta, who have international organisations asking them to fix appointments with me. This is not just Silvio Zammit doing it, because it seems that people think that you have to go through someone to go to the Commissioner."
About his relationship with Mr Zammit, Mr Dalli said: "Silvio Zammit is a canvasser like many hundreds of canvassers that I have. That is my relationship with him. (With him)... I have the contact I have with other canvassers. When they need something and when they have some friend who needs something... It's the usual political game in Malta.
"The question is at the heart of the scandal that Mr Dalli has found himself sucked into after an investigation by the EU anti-fraud agency, Olaf, concluded that Maltese businessman Silvio Zammit asked for a bribe from snus producer Swedish Match to be able to influence legislation under Mr Dalli's portfolio.
Mr Dalli has strenuously denied this, challenging Olaf to publish the report. Mr Zammit also denied the allegation but has refused to comment on any mater related to this case after he released a brief statement with his denial.
Brussels accepts lobbying as a legitimate part of the political game, however, lobbyists as a practice are registered for the sake of transparency.
Mr Zammit was not and Maltese people acting as middlemen usually are not, Mr Dalli admitted.
Moreover, the exact parameters of lobbying have been called into the question following this case.
Asked if dealing with such unregistered middlemen, whose only qualification is likely to be access to him, Mr Dalli said insisted that similar meetings made over the past two-and-a-half years were done transparently.
"I have other people who have contacted me over the past two-and-a-half years, in the most transparent way, and asked me to have meetings with people and I did. So what?"
He also excluded that these would make themselves available for money, arguing instead that they are more likely interested in deriving satisfaction from the important position it puts them in."I would be such an evil mind to think that for someone to set up a meeting he would take money. All I say is that it usually is a feeling of importance (that these canvassers seek)."
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