OLAF has serious questions to answer about relationship with tobacco industry – Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has stated that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has some serious questions to answer about its relationship with the tobacco industry following recent developments.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Martina Anderson MEP said;

“I would like to congratulate my colleagues in our parliamentary group, GUE/NGL, for passing a progressive resolution on the Philip Morris International (PMI) Agreements on tobacco smuggling. All four Sinn Féin MEPs signed the resolution passed in Strasbourg this afternoon.

“The resolution called on the European Commission to not renew the PMI agreements due for renewal later this year. The agreements were designed to help counter tobacco smuggling across the EU and place more responsibility for combatting smuggling on the tobacco industry.

“These agreements have failed miserably. They have been used as a fig leaf to mask the inadequacies of the European Union in dealing with the scourge of illicitly traded tobacco, which still costs the EU an estimated €10 billion each year.

“The tobacco industry has been mired in controversy due to aggressive lobbying and countless corruption accusations made against it. Big-money deals with the European Commission aren’t the way to deal with this scourge. The EU should accelerate the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive – an initiative I led through parliament in the last term – and they should sign up to the World Health Organisation protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. I have been designated the lead MEP for the implementation of the WHO Protocol and I look forward to advancing this in the coming months.”

A member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Martina Anderson continued;

“The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has benefited financially from these tobacco agreements. The European Parliament today acknowledged the obvious potential for a conflict of interest when OLAF investigates tobacco related cases as big tobacco contributes to its budget.

“I was delighted to see the European Parliament share Sinn Féin’s concerns and endorse the view that OLAF may have a serious conflict of interest in relation to tobacco.

“Fuel was added to this fire by breaking news today that OLAF Director Giovanni Kessler has had his immunity suspended by the European Commission over phone-tapping accusations in a case dealing with big tobacco.

“In 2012 Commissioner Dalli resigned over accusations made in relation to requests for huge sums of money in return for support in changing tobacco policy. Dalli denies the accusations. He has also been the subject of an FBI investigation into financial irregularities. 

“Several news outlets are today reporting that Kessler had secretly listened to legally recorded telephone conversations in relation to Dalli’s case.

“This is an alarming development and reinforces the view that OLAF’s relationship with big tobacco needs explained. As a publically funded, anti-fraud organisation, OLAF must hold itself to the highest of moral standards. These developments call to question the integrity of the office and their ability to effectively investigate fraud in the European Institutions.

Martina Anderson concluded;

“I will continue to fight the overbearing influence of the tobacco industry and advance progressive initiatives, such as the WHO Protocol, in the interest of public health. Sinn Féin will also fight to hold all European institutions to account.” ENDS