UPDATED/Malta Central Bank Governor-designate took money from tobacco giant to liaise with European Commissioner for Health John Dalli

Published: June 11, 2016 at 11:50am

UPDATE/When this post was published, Alfred Mifsud contacted me to point out that his fee from Philip Morris International was €2,750 a month and not €3,000. I have made this correction. He also gave me this comment, which I am reproducing in full: “Philip Morris never terminated my contract. I told them not to renew it when it expires as I was too busy and collective action law had passed. To this day they ask me to nominate a replacement which I refuse. John Dalli’s visits to my office twice a week should read twice a year.”

Alfred Mifsud, the deputy governor of the Central Bank who is set to become governor on 1 July, was on tobacco giant Philip Morris International’s payroll in 2011 and 2012, tasked with ‘backroom dealing’ with the then European Commissioner for Health, John Dalli, who was responsible for Europe’s tobacco legislation portfolio, and who is a close personal associate of Mifsud’s.

Mifsud also accepted entertainment from Philip Morris International over this period, travelling as the tobacco giant’s guest to football matches and other events.

Philip Morris International paid him €2,750 a month as a middleman or go-between with the European Health Commissioner, who was forced to resign in disgrace in another corruption scandal involving the Swedish tobacco industry.

Mifsud’s sole brief was to relay information and messages between John Dalli and Philip Morris International, because Dalli could not have private and unlogged meetings with the tobacco giant.

When the President of the European Commission forced Dalli to resign in October 2012, giving him half an hour to clear his desk, Philip Morris International informed Alfred Mifsud that his services were no longer required, and terminated his retainer fee.

During the period when Mifsud received money from Philip Morris International, European Commissioner John Dalli was seen visiting Mifsud’s offices in Msida “at least twice a week outside office hours” by eyewitnesses who spoke to this website. At the time, Dalli spent prolonged periods in Malta and flew to the island frequently from Brussels. This website had the information on the European Commissioner’s visits to Mifsud’s office a while ago, and reported on it, but it is only now that this piece of information can be tied together with the new information about Alfred Mifsud being in the pay of Philip Morris International.

When contacted for his comments about the matter yesterday evening, Mifsud admitted that he took money from the tobacco giant, but said that it was “as a consultant”. When asked what the cigarette manufacturers consulted him on, concerning Malta, he replied that it was “local markets, the tobacco industry and the class action legislation that was going through parliament at the time”.

The tobacco industry has a dedicated advisory council in Malta which performs this task, and beyond that, Philip Morris International has for many years retained a firm of lawyers to look after its interests in the Malta market. As law specialists who were formally retained by Philip Morris, they would have been monitoring the class action legislation themselves.

Alfred Mifsud has no background or involvement in the tobacco industry, and senior sources within that industry in Malta do not know him in this context at all and were surprised when told that Philip Morris International had been paying him.

Mifsud, who for many years was chairman of the Labour Party’s television and radio stations, has worked in financial services for some time, running Crystal Finance Ltd, an investment advisory firm which he sold when he became deputy governor of the Central Bank last year, and Allcare Insurance Brokers, which is currently in the process of being sold.

When I asked Mifsud to explain the European Commissioner for Health’s frequent visits to his Msida office after hours, he said: “This was in 2012 and he wanted advice on the Euro crisis. I met him in a personal capacity to talk about it.”

I asked him whether he thought it appropriate for a European Commissioner (who decided that he wanted advice on the Euro crisis from somebody who sold investment products in Malta, and whose portfolio was health) to visit an unofficial adviser at his office in Malta after hours, rather than calling him to a meeting at his Commission office in Brussels.

Mifsud replied: “I go to him, he comes to me, it doesn’t make a difference. I even met him in Brussels once. But mainly we met in Malta, usually over the weekends.”

When I asked him to explain why he met the Health Commissioner in Brussels, Mifsud said: “It was nothing, just a friendly meeting to say hello. It was at the beginning of his tenure.”

Mifsud confirmed that he was paid by Philip Morris International “for about 18 months” and that the relationship was terminated by Philip Morris when Dalli ceased to be European Commissioner.

Alfred Mifsud

Alfred Mifsud

John Dalli

John Dalli

philip morris international