Vitals inquiry given green light by court

Ministers Chris Cardona, Edward Scicluna and Konrad Mizzi said they would appeal the decree

Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona will now be under the magisterial microscope on their involvement with the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals concession deal
Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona will now be under the magisterial microscope on their involvement with the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals concession deal

A court has upheld Repubblika’s request for an inquiry into the transfer of three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare that would place Ministers Edward Scicluna and Chris Cardona under the magisterial microscope for the first time.

The inquiry had been requested by the NGO in order to establish whether ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi as well as Technoline managing director Ivan Vassallo had given the group of investors behind VGH an unfair advantage in the contract’s selection process.

The fact that the company had no prior experience in healthcare and “guzzled up millions in public funds which nobody has any account of” made the ministers’ behaviour suggestive of “corruption and money laundering, among other crimes”, Repubblika said.

This is the first time that Ministers Scicluna and Cardona are the subject of a magisterial inquiry.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit observed that a magisterial inquiry must be established if certain prerequisites are met: a notification of the authorities about a criminal act; that the alleged crime is punishable by over 3 years imprisonment; that there are material traces of the crime that must be preserved and described. If the inquiry is requested by a private person directly to the magistrate, it must be made in writing, explain the facts as clearly as possible and clearly identify the suspected person.
“Once these prerequisites are ascertained, an inquiry must be ordered,” reads the decree.

“The person filing the report need not describe the subject matter in all its detail – this should result from the inquiry and is precisely the reason for which the inquiry is held. It is the role of the inquiring magistrate to hold site visits and investigate the case on allegations made to him and must principally collect and preserve all direct and indirect proof.”

“Therefore the allegation by the suspected persons that that the claims of the applicants are simply conjectures made on the basis of journalistic articles cannot stand, because this precisely these allegations will be investigated by the Inquiring Magistrate in order to find the truth.”

In its decree, the court also stood up for investigative journalists, saying their work was crucial to ensure democracy in the country and cannot be discredited. “The information professionally gathered by them in the course of their investigations must be given the importance it deserves.”

The facts stated in the application and the amount of documents presented with it gives “more credibility to the aplicants intheir allegations and must be investigated and preserved.”

In a statement issued this evening, the Government said it would appeal the decree.

“The Ministers contend that the allegations are speculative in nature and were made in bad faith by politically-motivated individuals. In terms of law, they therefore intend to make submissions to an appellate court for a revision of the Magistrate’s decree,” the statement read.

 

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