John Dalli has resigned from his position as European commissioner for health and consumer affairs after an anti-fraud investigation linked him to an attempt by a Maltese businessman to influence tobacco policy in the EU.
The investigation was launched after tobacco producer Swedish Match complained to the Commission that an unnamed entrepreneur from Malta attempted to 'gain financial advantages' from the company in return for using his contact with fellow Malta native Dalli to push through legislation relating to the EU export ban on the chewing tobacco snus.
In a statement released by the European Commission, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) found that the Maltese businessman had approached the company with his intentions, although no transaction was ever concluded.
In addition, the OLAF report did not find conclusive evidence that Dalli directly participated in the plan, but did "consider that he was aware of these events".
Dalli resigned after being informed by EC president Jose Manuel Barroso of the report, although he "categorically rejects" its findings, according to the EC.
The former health commissioner's ultimate fate remains in the balance, however, and a Maltese judiciary will decide on what steps need to be taken next once the country's attorney general receives the final OLAF report and its recommendations.
EC vice president Maros Sefcovic will take over Dalli's health commissioner duties on an interim basis until a new commissioner of Maltese nationality is found to fill the role.
Dalli was appointed to the position of health commissioner in 2010, having been involved in Maltese politics for more than 20 years.
He has served as parliamentary secretary for industry, minister of economic affairs, minister as finance and foreign minister during his time as part of the conservative Nationalist Party government.
However, his time as foreign minister was short-lived, with corruption allegations relating to his time as minister of finance – later found to be untrue – leading to his resignation.
Dalli's decision to resign as the EC's health commissioner over the tobacco-related allegations comes at a time when the Commission has been increasingly vocal in its attempts to persuade more people in Europe to stop smoking.
The EC's deputy director general of health and consumers Martin Seychell recently warned that the region will face will face an overwhelming chronic disease problem in both economic and social terms if more isn't done to curb smoking, while a new app was launched last month as part of the EC's iCoach campaign to help people quit.