BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of the European Union’s anti-fraud office (OLAF) could face prosecution over an investigation that forced an EU health commissioner to resign amid suggestions of corruption.
The European Commission has removed the immunity from prosecution that Giovanni Kessler enjoyed as head of OLAF, after Belgian prosecutors presented evidence about his office’s investigation into John Dalli, a Maltese commissioner who resigned in 2012, it said on Friday.
OLAF had said that Dalli, a former Maltese finance minister, had been aware that an associate of his had asked a Swedish tobacco company for money in return for helping make changes to EU legislation.
The OLAF investigation led the EU Commission to announce that the commissioner had resigned. Dalli subsequently denied any wrongdoing and said he had been forced out.
After the Commission lifted his immunity from prosecution, the OLAF press office said Kessler, an Italian former prosecutor against the mafia, would “take the necessary initiatives to protect OLAF’s independence” and could sue the Commission at the European Court of Justice.
Belgian authorities have for the last year been investigating the way Kessler conducted the Dalli investigation, notably the unauthorized taping of a telephone conversation between two witnesses.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Robin Pomeroy