Steward claim of investor’s collusion on Vitals deal gleaned from NAO report

Adrian Delia Vitals rescission case: MP says Steward already alleged irregularities in Vitals concession deal

Nationalist MP Adrian Delia entering court to continue the civil case he initiated to have the hospitals concession agreement rescinded (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Nationalist MP Adrian Delia entering court to continue the civil case he initiated to have the hospitals concession agreement rescinded (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A Maltese court has been told that Steward Healthcare admitted in a UK court that Ambrish Gupta, an early investor in the formerly ‘Vitals’ hospital privatisation concession, was involved in irregular and collusive practice with the Muscat administration.

Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale presided another sitting in the case filed by former PN leader Adrian Delia in which he is seeking the recission of the contract between government and Vitals Global Healthcare, now Steward.

Steward has since also filed a case against investors Medical Associates of North Virginia Inc, in which the healthcare company alleges that MANV investor Ambrish Gupta was involved in irregular and collusive practises with regards to the agreement with the government of Malta.

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“It is essential that this court has before it a copy of these acts, as not only in article 16 of the application is there a reference to this, but also because in other articles of the same application, among them article 18, where the defendants Steward say that in 2017, when barely a year had passed since the granting of the concession, it was clear that the companies were in difficulty in delivering …under the concession and were in a precarious financial situation,” Delia’s lawyer Edward Debono said.

The hospitals’ concession had had a deleterious effect on healthcare in Malta, the lawyer stressed. “It is imperative that these acts, as declared by Steward themselves are brought to the attention of this court as part of the acts of this case. The proof desired by the plaintiff was provided by the defendants themselves.”

Lawyer Joseph Camilleri, for Steward, did not object that a copy of the application referred to, but pointed out that the statements mentioned were “built on what came out in public in a report by the National Audit Office, which is also public.”

The lawyer said the only evidence gathered in those proceedings that didn’t emerge from the Maltese proceedings “in truth were only an English lawyer’s affidavit.”

Debono, quoting from paragraph 26 of the application, added that “it resulted that the concession was originally given as a direct consequence of the fraudulent actions of its investors, including Gupta, in the healthcare project and this in breach of the regulations on public procurement.”

The court upheld Delia’s request and authorised him to present the application filed before the British courts. On its part, Steward declared its evidence closed, while Malta Industrial Parks – now Indis Malta – will present affidavits. The next sitting will be for the court to hear testimony by the Lands Authority and Industrial parks.

Delia objected to the date of the next sitting – in December – saying that “the time in between every sitting is costing the country over €6 million.”

Mr Justice Depasquale noted that the plaintiff had closed his evidence in June and ordered the Lands Authority and Indis Malta to exhibit all of their documentary evidence by the next sitting, and indicate whether they have witnesses to testify or not.

State advocate Christopher Soler and lawyer Andrew Cauchi appeared for the government. Lawyer Eliana Scicluna appeared for Indis. Lawyer Joseph Camilleri appeared for Steward. Lawyer Maronia Magri for the Lands Authority.