Corporate lobbying is rife the European Commission, and wields significant influence in EU decision making. There is a systematic pattern of privileged access for business and industry interests, facilitated both through formal and informal channels (lobby meetings, dinners and events) all conjured up by n estimated 25,000 lobbyists who roam the corridors of Brussels. This takes place against a backdrop of lax regulation, from a voluntary lobby register and a vague code of conduct for Commissioners, to inadequate implementation of revolving door rules and insufficient scrutiny of conflicts of interest in the Commission, its agencies, the Parliament and other EU bodies.
Allegations in 2012 by the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) indicated that Dalli solicited bribes from a Swedish tobacco firm as part of grand plan by the tobacco industry to weaken an EU tobacco control law Dalli was promoting. The tobacco industry's hand in the "Dalligate" scandal remained unsubstantiated since Dalli's resignation until recently. In 2014, a French public TV station aired a two-hour report titled "Tobacco Industry: The Grand Manipulation". In their report, journalists uncovered documents they acquired from Philip Morris showing that it was the tobacco lobby who had planned a strategy to target Dalli, a European Health Commissioner, who was steadfast in his drive to have a harsh tobacco products directive.
In May 2012, Swedish Match (a smokeless tobacco company) reported to the European Commission that Mr. Silvio Zammit (a Maltese businessman Dalli knew from his political career on that island, Malta) had asked the company for as much as 80 million euros in return for using his contacts with Mr. Dalli to change tobacco control laws. OLAF's 5 month investigation corroborated that Zammit met with a Maltese Swedish March lobbyist, Gayle Kimberley, in Malta in February 2012 and that Zammit offered her to "fiddle an EU tobacco law" in return for 60 Million Euros. In its report, Swedish Match also included a recording of one of the requests for money made by Mr. Zammit to a tobacco industry lobbyist. Swedish Match's plan must be seen in the context of the larger scheme by the tobacco industry to influence the then-upcoming Tobacco Products Directive (which Dalli had planned to use to constrict their activities in Europe).
And, this makes sense, even Jon Dalli would admit. Mr. Dalli had indicated that there had been "enormous resistance" to the Tobacco Products Directive from tobacco companies. Dalli has noted since his resignation that he was due to begin the legislative process for the TPD just a week after Barroso asked him to resign. European expert sources such as the European Public Health Alliance suggest that Mr. Dalli's resignation showed "how powerful the tobacco industry can be in influencing and undermining decision makers that are trying to support public health measures".
Big Tobacco's campaign certainly worked. John Dalli's resignation set back the draft TPD directive until the last gasp of his European Commission in 2014, when a substantially pro-industry draft of the directive was passed by Brussels lawmakers. Dalli is still on the rocks, drowned merely by the alleged offer of an industry bribe. And, presumably, industry lobbyists are still proposing that the current lawmakers pervert and corrupt their own legislation for some tidy cash.