Johan Gabrielsson

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Johan Gabrielsson is a Swedish lawyer who has been employed by snus manufacturer Swedish Match since October 2011 as the company’s Director of Public Affairs, based in Brussels. Gabrielsson has also represented Swedish Match at the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC). In November 2012 the ESTOC website showed Gabrielsson to be a member of ESTOC’s Communication and Policy Committee 1, but details of this particular Committee have been removed since.

Recruited to lobby on the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision

In 2011, Swedish Match recruited Gabrielsson through PR firm Kreab Gavin Anderson, employing him specifically to lobby the European Commission in Brussels on the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), in particular the EU ban on snus. In a 2012 interview with the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office OLAF, Swedish Match Vice President of Group Public Affairs, Patrik Hildingsson, recalled that Swedish Match were looking “for someone with good knowledge of work within the EU institutions” and that “We Match approached Gabrielsson, he did not come to us”.2

Revolving Door

Gabrielsson is a classic Revolving Door case of a former EU official becoming a lobbyist, and drawing on their contacts in, and knowledge of, EU institutions to lobby in Brussels on the tobacco industry’s behalf. Prior to being recruited by Swedish Match to strengthen the company’s EU public affairs office in Brussels, Gabrielsson worked for the European Commission. From 2004 to 2010 he was employed as an “auxiliary and contract agent” at DG Enlargement, after which he consulted for (presumably other areas in) “the Commission” and the London School of Economics.3 In addition, from 2002 to 2004 Gabrielsson worked at the European Court of Justice,3 although it is unclear in what capacity.

Involvement in ’Dalligate’

Gabrielsson was one of five ‘witnesses’ interviewed by the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office OLAF during its 2012 investigation into alleged bribe requests made to Swedish Match and ESTOC by Silvio Zammit, a Maltese associate of Health Commissioner Dalli. OLAF subsequently concluded in its final report that “unambiguous and converging circumstantial evidences” indicated that Dalli was aware of the bribe requests.4 Despite OLAF’s evidence being arguably weak, the findings of the report led to John Dalli’s resignation as Health Commissioner (or dismissal by European Commission president Barroso as claimed by Dalli) on 16 October 2012.5
In a statement made by Gabrielsson to OLAF on 2 June 2012,3 Gabrielsson confirmed that he was responsible for introducing Swedish Match in November 2011 to Maltese lawyer Gayle Kimberley, whom he first met in 2005 when Kimberley worked at the Council’s Legal Service and was a colleague of Gabrielsson’s wife. His wife and Kimberley became good friends and they all socialised together. Swedish Match paid Gayle Kimberley €5,000 to gain access to Commissioner Dalli (who is also Maltese) and provide him with information to shape the evidence base on snus in favour of the company’s interests. In December 2011, Gabrielsson and a colleague (Hendrik Ollson) travelled to Malta to brief Kimberley on the snus issue and prepare for her pending meeting with John Dalli in January 2012. It was deemed crucial that she would be perceived as an independent stakeholder, and in no way linked to Swedish Match. Kimberley later reported in an email to Gabrielsson that “the meeting was CONFIDENTIAL and I was in no way representing SM Match just giving the objective position of snus producers and users!”.6
It was Gabrielsson who informed Swedish Match’s senior management of Zammit’s €60 million bribery offer made at a meeting between Kimberley, himself and Zammit at the latter’s restaurant in February 2012. According to Gabrielsson, the final time he spoke with Kimberley was late March 2012 after having been advised (unclear by whom) that “DG SANCO was preparing an opinion on the ban of snus that was very negative for our interest” 3. He was seeking Kimberley’s opinion whether DG SANCO’s opinion on snus could have been affected by Swedish Match’s refusal to accept the bribe. Apparently Kimberley told him she was no longer in contact with Zammit and therefore was unable to assess a possible link.

Turning against OLAF: PR exercise or genuine change of heart?

On 21 March 2013, Member of European Parliament José Bové (who has openly criticised the way in which ‘Dalligate’ was handled by OLAF and the European Commission), revealed that he had had an 81 minute conversation with Gabrielsson. 7
During the meeting, Gabrielsson turned the tables on OLAF and claimed that they had in fact instructed him to stick to a misleading version of events which placed lawyer Gayle Kimberley in two meetings with John Dalli (where in fact she had only been present at one meeting and Swedish Match had been aware of this). OLAF has denied this allegation.

Discrediting the European Commission: Not Given a ‘Fair Trial’

On 29 August 2012 Swedish Match requested a meeting with the European Commission’s Secretariat General, rather than the Commission’s Health Directorate DG SANCO, which is the Commission’s lead agency on the TPD.58. The meeting took place on 18 September 2012, and was attended by Gabrielsson, his colleague Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson, and two officials from the Secretariat General, plus a representative of DG SANCO. Following the meeting Mrs Kindstrand-Isaksson emailed the EU officials, writing that “I would like to thank you all for taking time to meet with me and my colleague Johan today and to give us a chance to explain out views on the current situation regarding snus and what we see as a logical step to take in the future, that is regulation for all smokefree tobacco products in the EU”. 9
A file note included in the final OLAF report, demonstrates that Gabrielsson subsequently met with OLAF on 19 September 2012, the day after his meeting with the European Commission.10 He told the OLAF investigator that he had been invited by the Secretary General to a meeting with Secretariat General and DG SANCO staff (contradicting the Commission’s claim that Swedish Match emailed them on 29 August 2012 requesting a meeting),5 and that he was concerned “that the Sec Gen General and DG SANCO did not listen to the arguments of Swedish Match”, and added that “the only thing Swedish Match wants is a ‘fair trial’”.10

Related TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. ESTOC, Structure, undated, accessed 20 November 2012
  2. European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF, Written Record of Interview with Mr Patrik Hildingsson conducted 2 and 6 June 2012. In: Transmission of information following a closure of investigation, Fax from Giovanni Kessler to Peter Grech, dated 17 October 2012
  3. abcdEuropean Anti-Fraud Office, Written Record of Interview with Mr Johan Lenmart Gabrielsson, conducted 2 June 2012. In: Transmission of information following a closure of investigation, Fax from Giovanni Kessler to Peter Grech, dated 17 October 2012
  4. G. Kessler, Transmission of information following a closure of investigation, Fax from the OLAF to Peter Grech, Attorney General Malta, dated 17 October 2011
  5. abcEuropean Commission and OLAF (2012), Replies to the Questionnaire from the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament concerning the resignation of the former Commissioner John Dalli, Brussels 30 November 2012, accessed 16 July 2013
  6. G. Kimberley, Re: Meeting Commissioner. Email dated 9 January 2012 addressed to Johan Gabrielsson. In: Transmission of information following a closure of investigation, Fax from Giovanni Kessler to Peter Grech, dated 17 October 2012
  7. M. Vella, Update:Swedish Match lobbyist admits that OLAF told him to stick to incorrect version of events, Malta Today 21 March 2013, accessed July 2013
  8. Maltatoday, Swedish Match EC ‘lobbied’ on snus just days before Dalli resignation, 18 November 2012, accessed 20 November 2012
  9. C. Kindstrand-Isaksson, Thank for your today’s meeting. Email from Kindstrand-Isaksson to EU officials, dated 18 September 2012
  10. abMikael Jaretoft and Johan Gabrielsson, Note for the file: Meeting with Mr Gabrielsson, dated 26 September 2012. In: Transmission of information following a closure of investigation, Fax from Giovanni Kessler to Peter Grech, dated 17 October 2012