Updated | Court rejects Prime Minister’s appeal in Adrian Delia’s Vitals Case

The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal filed by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Lands Authority and ordered the case to continue

The Court of Appeal dismissed the request and ordered the case to continue
The Court of Appeal dismissed the request and ordered the case to continue

Updated at 11am with Nationalist Party reaction

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal filed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Attorney General and the Lands Authority, in a case filed by Opposition leader Adrian Delia. 

On the 19 February last year, shortly after a concession for the running of three of Malta’s public hospitals was transferred from Vitals Global Healthcare to Steward Heath Care, Delia filed court proceedings asking for the annulment of the concession agreement.

Delia’s case was filed against the Prime Minister, Vitals Global Health Care, the Attorney General, the CEO of Malta Industrial Parks Limited and the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Lands Authority.

The government, Delia had said, had no right to authorise the transfer of the concession from VGH to Steward, given that VGH has breached the terms of the contract in a number of instances.   

Back in May, the Prime Minister, Attorney General and the Lands Authority had raised a preliminary plea claiming the lawsuit was inadmissible since it could only have been filed up to the date when the final deed was signed.

But in a decision handed down this morning by Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Mr. Justice Joseph R. Micallef and Mr. Justice Tonio Mallia the appeal was dismissed and the case ordered to continue.

The court saw the reasons upon which the appelants founded their appeal and said that it didn’t see a reason to interfere with the discretion of the first court and revoke its provision.

There was nothing binding the court that gave the interlocutory decree from changing its mind if given good reason, said the judges.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Edward Debono are assisting the Opposition leader.

READ MORE: Decision on whether Vitals case can be split up expected in March

'A victory for Adrian Delia and the people' - PN

In a reaction to the court's decision, the Nationalist Party noted with satisfaction in a statement that the Court of Appeal, presided by the Chief Justice, had today rejected the Prime Minister and AG's argument in the case instituted by the leader of the Opposition.

"The Prime Ministers and the Attorney General wanted this case to be delayed as much as possible," the PN said, "They had requested the First Court not to give one judgment on the merits of the case, but to hand down various and several judgments, along the years, on each one of their preliminary pleas and arguments."

"Adrian Delia has objected strongly to this request, as it was obvious this would lead to an inordinate delay taking up many long years to be decided, when this was a case about the largest ever contract given by the Government in the last 40 years, and one dealing with our health system," it highlighted.

"The First Court had rejected this request, arguing that this case was of national importance and thus should not be delayed unduly and unnecessarily, thus upholding Dr Delia's arguments. The Prime Minister and the AG appealed to the Court of Appeal."

"Today the Court of Appeal rejected all of the arguments brought by the Prim Minister and the Attorney General and again upheld Dr Delia's arguments."

Calling the court's decision a "significant victory not just for the Opposition leader, but for all people of goodwill in this country who cannot stomach anymore the unbridled greed, sleaze and corruption which have become the hallmark of this government," the PN reiterated that the government's decision to give the three hospitals to Vitals constituted a "wrong deal".

This was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, the party remarked, when he had described the new Steward agreement as "the real deal".

Appeal related to technical point

Reacting to the PN’s statement, the government noted that that the appeal related to point about whether “preliminary objections, that could by their nature terminate the case abruptly, should be decided before the case is heard on its merits”.

“This is a technical point that doesn’t require anyone to produce evidence and therefore one certainly cannot speak of delay tactics on the part of the government,” read the statement.

It added that, “as it has always done”, the government respected the courts’ judgment, “unlike the Opposition, which praises or attacks the court as is convenient”.

“It is worth noting that the Leader of the Opposition is praising decisions by the same court he himself was attacking just last Sunday.”