BRUSSELS — The European Union's health commissioner resigned Tuesday over corruption allegations involving tobacco laws but has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to clear his name.
John Dalli, a former Maltese businessman, resigned after the EU's anti-fraud office found that he was aware of an attempt at corruption surrounding new legislation on the Swedish tobacco product known as snus.
Snus is a type of smokeless tobacco sold in loose form or in paper sachets that users stuff under their upper lip. Snus sales are banned in the EU, except in Sweden, which insisted on an exemption when it joined the EU.
The EU Commission said in a statement that Dalli had resigned immediately. It said the anti-fraud office "did not find any conclusive evidence" of Dalli's direct involvement in a scheme to profit from his office but felt "that he was aware of these events."
The Commission said Dalli "categorically rejects these findings" but decided to resign to better defend the reputation of himself and the EU executive.
The EU's anti-fraud office sent a report to the Commission after it investigated a complaint by Swedish Match, a tobacco producer. The company alleged that a Maltese businessman had tried to use his contacts with Dalli to get a financial benefit from Swedish Match in return for pressing Dalli to influence future tobacco laws on snus.
OLAF claims that Dalli knew about the attempt at fraud and did not report it. Its report now goes to the Attorney General of Malta.
Twelve years ago, the whole EU Commission resigned after an investigative panel alleged cronyism and financial irregularities in their ranks.