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EU court rejects Commissioner's claim he was forced to resign

12 May 2015, 12:06 CET
EU court rejects Commissioner's claim he was forced to resign

John Dalli - Photo EC

(LUXEMBOURG) - An EU court on Tuesday rejected former health commissioner John Dalli's claim that he had been wrongfully forced to resign over a tobacco-linked influence-peddling probe.

The General Court of the European Union ruled that Dalli, a Maltese politician, had resigned of his own accord during an October 16, 2012 meeting with then Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and rejected his bid for compensation of 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).

"The court finds that Mr. Dalli resigned voluntarily, no formal request for his resignation having been made by President Barroso," said the court, which is second only to the European Court of Justice.

It added that Dalli "resigned orally," he gave verbal confirmation to other commission officials and did not immediately challenge a commission statement referring to his resignation.

"The court dismisses the action as inadmissable. The court in consequence also rejects Mr. Dalli's claim for compensation," it said.

He stepped down after the EU fraud office OLAF said a Maltese entrepreneur used his contacts with Dalli to seek a bribe from a Swedish firm, Swedish Match, in return for changes to draft tobacco legislation, particularly on the EU export ban on snus.

Snus, or Swedish snuff, is a moist powder tobacco originating from dry snuff. Though its sale is illegal across the EU, it is manufactured and used in Sweden, which has an exemption, and Norway, which is not an EU member.

Dalli, who categorically denied all wrongdoing, has said Barroso called him in and demanded he resign within the half-hour, denying his request to give him 24 hours.

Dalli has repeatedly claimed he was set up by the tobacco lobby in order to delay anti-smoking legislation.

Dalli told the court last year that when summoned by Barroso in 2012, he had no idea why and was surprised by the charges as well as the Commission president's demand for his immediate resignation.

Called to testify, Barroso stated that he had asked the EU's top health official to explain behaviour "not in keeping with the proper conduct of a commissioner."

"Dalli resigned of his own will in my office," Barroso added.

The court said an appeal may be brought before the EU Court of Justice, the highest court, within two months of notification of the decision.

Judgement of the General Court in case T-562/12 - Dalli v Commission

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