By Martin Banks - 23rd April 2013
This report casts both Olaf and Kessler in very bad light
Bart Staes, MEP
If you read the report it is quite complimentary of Olaf and approves the internal reforms we have made
Giovanni Kessler, Olaf
The director general of Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud agency, is facing renewed calls to quit after a "damning" report which allegedly questions the "legality" of its investigation into former EU health commissioner John Dalli.
The report was compiled by Olaf's five-strong supervisory committee, the body which oversees the work of the Brussels-based agency.
It was presented to members of parliament's budgetary control committee on Tuesday and was said by Belgian Greens MEP Bart Staes to put Olaf chief Giovanni Kessler in a "very bad light".
While the report does not name Dalli, a Maltese national, but some of the references to Olaf's investigative work in the past year are, according to Staes, widely taken to refer directly to the inquiry into the former health commissioner.
Dalli quit last year over allegations that he was aware of an attempt to solicit a €60m bribe from Swedish Match to reverse an EU trading ban on the sale of the smokeless tobacco product 'snus'.
While not citing any cases in particular, the committee's report says it had "identified shortcomings" in Olaf's investigations.
According to reports in the Maltese media, the committee has doubts about the way the four-month investigation on Dalli was carried out, saying that Olaf requests for Maltese telephone records and its "instigation of third parties to record private conversations" might have been illegal.
Olaf is thought to have obtained from the Maltese authorities records of calls between Dalli, his business associate Silvio Zammit - who has since been charged with bribery - and lawyer Gayle Kimberley, who acted for Swedish Match.
Olaf is empowered to have access to any information held by institutions, but the committee, in the report, says this does "not cover the request to national authorities".
The supervisory committee also voices concern about the "direct participation" of the Olaf director general in "some investigative tasks".
This, says Staes, is taken as being as a reference to an interview that took place between Kessler and Kimberley as part of the Dalli inquiry.
"The question of whether the director general himself can participate directly in investigative tasks is important given that it may have an impact on the respect of the principle of impartiality," says the report.
Presenting the report, Johan Denolf, chair of Olaf's supervisory committee, said the overall aim was to "improve the effectiveness" of the anti-fraud agency.
Addressing claims by Staes that Kessler had been "at permanent war" with the committee, Denolf said, "A healthy degree of tension is normal, but we will be proposing a new working relationship with Olaf."
Kessler told this website, "If you read the report it is quite complimentary of Olaf and approves the internal reforms we have made.
"Yes, you can always do things better but it recognises the improvements and makes no mention of any illegal conduct."
Staes, a member of the budgetary control committee, told this website he believes the report "casts further doubt" on the future of Kessler, who is already facing demands for his resignation from EPP member Inge Gräßle.
Staes said, "This report casts both Olaf and Kessler in very bad light. He should go."