Businessman sought 60 mln-euro bribe in EU fraud case - company

Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:32am EDT

* EU health commissioner resigned after fraud office report

* Swedish tobacco company says businessman asked for bribe

* Said law change "political suicide" for commissioner

By Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM, Oct 19 (Reuters) - A businessman whose request for cash to influence European law led to the resignation of the EU's health commissioner wanted a 60 million-euro ($79 million) bribe, tobacco firm Swedish Match said on Friday.

John Dalli resigned on Tuesday after European Union anti-fraud office OLAF found a Maltese businessman had tried to use his links to the health commissioner - also from Malta - to influence future EU tobacco legislation.

Dalli rejected the OLAF findings, which came after Swedish Match notified the Commission of the bribery attempt in May.

The businessman, who has not been publicly identified, offered to help get the EU to lift its export ban on snus, Swedish-style snuff that usually comes in pouches that are placed in the mouth.

Snus, Swedish Match's main product, is banned everywhere in the EU except Sweden which has lobbied to get the ban overturned.

Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported that the businessman had asked Swedish Match for 10 million euros in advance and another 50 million once the legislation was changed.

"That's the kind of sums we are talking about," Swedish Match spokesman Patrik Hildingsson told Reuters.

A Swedish Match employee met the businessman in Malta after he had sought contact, Hildingsson said.

"The Maltese businessman expressed to us very clearly that he was speaking on behalf of Dalli. He had a manner and information that made us wary," Hildingsson said.

"He said it was, in principle, political suicide to lift the ban and therefore he wanted money for it, simply put, since the career (of the EU commissioner) would be over afterwards."

Swedish Match declined the offer and informed the Commission of what had happened, Hildingsson said.

The European Commission said OLAF did not find any evidence that Dalli had taken a bribe but said he was "was aware of these events". ($1 = 0.7638 euros) (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.