The European Union's top health official resigned today (16 October) after an anti-fraud investigation connected him to an attempt to influence EU tobacco legislation, the European Commission said.

The EU's anti-fraud office OLAF found that a Maltese businessman had tried to use his contacts with Commissioner John Dalli, who is Maltese, for financial gain by offering to influence future EU legislation on tobacco products.

"The OLAF report did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli but did consider that he was aware of these events," the Commissions said in a statement, saying that Dalli had resigned with immediate effect.

The statement said it was up to Maltese judicial authorities to decide if they wanted to pursue the case.

Dalli has rejected OLAF's finding. "Even though the OLAF report states that there is no evidence of my direct participation in these events and that the decision making process of the Commission Services had not been influenced in any way", OLAF concluded that I was aware of these events basing themselves ONLY on circumstantial evidence," Dalli said in a statement, denying that he was in any way aware of any of these events.

Dalli was first elected to the Maltese parliament in 1987 and became parliamentary secretary for industry. He later became Minister of Economic Affairs before serving as Minister of Finance for 10 years, with the rare distinction of having introduced VAT twice – the second after the short-lived Labour government removed the tax in 1996.

Vice President Maros Sefcovic will take over the portfolio of Commissioner Dalli on an interim basis until a new commissioner is appointed by the Maltese government.