* 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 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
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
($1 = 0.7638 euros)
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)