The NGO Corporate Europe Observatory has named Karas among a list of ten MEPs from the current European parliament who have – according to leaked documents – strong relations with tobacco giant Philip Morris.
Karas denies the allegation and said: “I talk with everybody, but I don't let anybody impose anything on me.”
Corporate Europe Observatory said that the leaked files show that Karas “maintains particularly close contacts with tobacco industry representatives… appears generally amenable to the lobbyists' world, and is also a member of the think tank the Kangaroo Group, which is focused on the exchange between MEPs and lobbyists.” It also mentioned that Karas’s former assistant, Stefan Pinter, now works as a lobbyist for Philip Morris Austria.
The NGO went on to say that Karas planned “to initiate a common breakfast with his Austrian MEP colleagues, PMG [Philip Morris Germany] & JTI [Japan Tobacco International] representatives, as well as Trierenberg [a cigarette tipping paper manufacturer] representatives on the topic of TPD [Tobacco Product Directive].”
Karas’s press officer said a breakfast meeting never took place, and denied that he had a close relationship with the tobacco industry.
In autumn 2012 EU health commissioner John Dalli resigned after allegations that had benefited from a deal with lobbyists. Dalli was linked to a Maltese entrepreneur accused of seeking a "considerable" payment from a Swedish producer of oral tobacco, called snus, after which Mr Dalli would lift an EU ban on the product.
The affair sparked a debate about the role of lobbyists in the EU and the close cooperation of leading tobacco companies with the EU against cigarette smuggling.