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European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)

Anti-fraud chief’s conviction upheld in latest ‘Dalligate’ twist

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OLAF director admits orders came from EU Commission president, as court blocked from investigating wider conspiracy.

The former director of the EU anti-fraud office (OLAF), Geovanni Kessler, yesterday lost an attempt to overturn his conviction in a Belgian criminal court for illegally recording a phone call, the latest twist in a decade-old scandal recently dramatised for cinema. 

In an appeal court hearing in May, Kessler admitted for the first time that he was at fault for arranging the call, an admission that won him a lighter sentence in yesterday’s ruling. He also testified for the first time that former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso had ordered the investigation into the health commissioner at the time, John Dalli (pictured).

Mr Dalli maintains that the rushed OLAF investigation gave Barroso grounds to summarily force him out of office days before he was due to table tough new tobacco laws.

The court ruled that Mr Dalli had been impacted by Kessler and was entitled to financial compensation. It said it had been constrained in its investigation by legal immunity granted to Kessler by Barroso’s Commission and maintained ever since. This despite an unconstrained OLAF oversight committee uncovering a decade ago further illegalities and procedural wrongdoing by the Kessler investigation.

Reacting to the judgement, Mr Dalli said: “We now know who ordered OLAF to investigate, but the full nature of that investigation remains hidden. In the interest of justice, immunity must be lifted so the Belgian prosecutors can investigate any further criminality.”

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