Alfred Mifsud, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Malta, took money from tobacco giant Philip Morris to entertain a relationship with then Commissioner for Health John Dalli, responsible for EU’s tobacco legislation portfolio, according to a well-respected investigative journalist in Malta.
Dalli, who was sacked by the then Commission president José Manuel Barroso in October 2012 after a tobacco lobbying scandal involving a Swedish company, has claimed he was a victim ever since.
But new information, revealed by investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in her blog “Running Commentary”, shows that Dalli was also in touch, through an intermediary, with the US tobacco giant Philip Morris.
Daphne Caruana Galizia is known as “Malta’s only independent journalist” and was the only one to have been given privileged access to the Panama Papers.
According to the revelations, Philip Morris International paid Mifsud €2,750 a month to act as a middleman or go-between with Dalli. The payment stopped when the Maltese commissioner was forced to resign.
Mifsud also accepted entertainment from Philip Morris International over this period, travelling as the tobacco giant’s guest to football matches and other events.
Reportedly, Mifsud’s sole brief was to relay information and messages between Dalli and Philip Morris International, because Dalli could not have private and unlogged meetings with the tobacco giant.
When Barroso forced Dalli to resign, giving him half an hour to clear his desk, Philip Morris International informed Alfred Mifsud that his services were no longer required, and terminated his retainer fee.
‘Prolonged periods in Malta’
During the period when Mifsud received money from Philip Morris International, Dalli was seen visiting Mifsud’s offices in Malta “at least twice a week outside office hours” by eyewitnesses. At the time, Dalli spent prolonged periods in Malta and flew to the island frequently from Brussels.
When contacted for his comments about the matter yesterday evening, Mifsud admitted that he took money from the tobacco giant, but said that it was “as a consultant”. When asked what the cigarette manufacturers consulted him on, concerning Malta, he replied that it was “local markets, the tobacco industry and the class action legislation that was going through parliament at the time”.
Mifsud confirmed that he was paid by Philip Morris International “for about 18 months” and that the relationship was terminated by Philip Morris when Dalli ceased to be European Commissioner.
Mifsud, who is set to become governor of the Central Bank of Malta from 1 July, is also exposed by Caruana Galizia as taking large amounts of cash from a businessman representing an American software company. At that time Mifsud was chairman of Mid Med Bank (now HSBC Bank Malta). The same company was later engaged for installing new software worth millions for Mid Med Bank.
The investigation of the Dalli case by the EU anti-fraud office OLAF was criticised for being amateurish and its former chief has been stripped of his immunity to be able to be investigated by the Belgian authorities.
Malta is taking over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 January 2017. The country has recently been associated with a succession of scandals and corruption stories.