John Dalli boarded a flight to the Bahamas tax haven just hours after he was allegedly alerted to a recording in which his former canvasser unsuccessfully requested a large bribe to help amend EU tobacco legislation.

News of the trip was broken yesterday by the International Herald Tribune. But the newspaper did not make any reference to the phone call between the former European Health Commissioner and his canvasser that took place shortly before Mr Dalli’s departure.

The Herald claimed Mr Dalli was in Nassau to transfer “tens of millions of dollars”, reporting the amount could have been as much as $100 million, though there has been no suggestion that the money is linked to the bribe request.

Mr Dalli has dismissed the newspaper report as a “blatant lie” aimed at tarnishing his reputation.

On July 6, 2012, Mr Dalli was in Cyprus attending official activities to mark the start of the Cypriot Presidency. That day he called his former canvasser Silvio Zammit for an update on the investigation by the EU anti-fraud agency (OLAF), which eventually led to his resignation in October. The previous day Mr Zammit was interrogated for the second time by OLAF investigators after having stormed out of the first session on July 4 – the day when he was confronted with a recorded conversation he had with tobacco lobbyist Inge Delfosse; the central piece of evidence presented against him.

Mr Zammit had insisted OLAF was twisting the facts and he demanded access to a full transcript of the conversation.

In the most salient line of the recorded conversation Mr Zammit allegedly asked Ms Delfosse for €10 million to arrange a meeting with his “boss”.

A day after the interrogation, Mr Zammit received a call from Mr Dalli at 6pm and he told him about the interrogation.

According to a Commission source, shortly after that conversation Mr Dalli called Brussels asking if he could be excused from dinner – hosted by the Cypriot President at a country mansion – because he needed to fly back to Malta. The response from the office of the Commission’s general secretary Catherine Day was that although he was free to act as he pleased, it would be rude to cancel at such short notice.

Mr Dalli attended the dinner. However, on July 7, he boarded a flight to Malta arriving in Luqa at around noon before starting his journey to Nassau in the Bahamas via London Heathrow Airport. After spending not more than four hours in the Bahamas he returned to Cyprus on the evening of July 9, in time for a conference the following day.

When contacted, Mr Dalli dismissed the Herald report as a “blatant lie”, saying he had flown to the Bahamas simply to give “advice” on “a voluntary basis” to unnamed individuals about the possibility of setting up a charitable trust fund. He said no money was transacted.

mmicallef@timesofmalta.com

More details in The Times of Malta.

AD STATEMENT

Alternattiva Demokratika Chairman Arnold Cassola in a statement this morning said Mr Dalli needed tocome clean and stop hiding behind confidentiality.

"In whose name was he acting in Bahamas? Why did his family rent an 8000 dollar a month villa there for three months? We need quick answers to this since Malta's reputation is at stake. John Dalli has the duty of full disclosure of the facts in the interest of Malta’s reputation, irrespective of the course of action of OLAF".

Prof Cassola said Malta's name and reputation were smeared last October when the Snus issue came up. OLAF and Giovanni Kessler's bungling in the process had not helped at all. Now Malta's name was being smeared again and splashed the world over with the International Herald Tribune allegations.

"We need to know the real facts and to clear our country's name, even more so now that John Dalli is a special consultant for Malta's Prime Minister", concluded Prof. Cassola.

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