Magisterial inquiry into government-Vitals deal stalled by ministers' appeals

Repubblika is asking for a criminal inquiry into ministers Konrad Mizzi, Edward Scicluna and Chris Cardona involvement in the hospitals deal  

An inquiry into the deal cannot proceed until an appeal filed by ministers is heard
An inquiry into the deal cannot proceed until an appeal filed by ministers is heard

A magisterial inquiry into the government’s deal with Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) has stalled because of an appeal filed by the three ministers in question against the inquiry.

Back in May, the NGO Repubblika filed a court application requesting a magisterial inquiry into a public-private partnership entered into by the government with VGH for the administration of three of Malta’s hospitals.

The inquiry was asked to establish whether there was criminal complicity by anyone of the three ministers, as well as Ivan Vassallo, the owner of the medical supplies company Technoline, in the manner the contract was awarded.

Repubblika’s request was upheld by the court last month, making it the first time that Cardona or Scicluna are the subject of a magisterial inquiry.

The three ministers filed an appeal to revoke that ruling. While Vassallo didn’t appeal the inquiry, the decree is now binding for him as well and would not be testifying until the appeal is decided. 

“Until that appeal is over, we cannot move ahead,” Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti said in a decree on Wednesday.  

The court’s registrar requested a copy of the acts of the case with regard Vassallo but Mr Justice Grixti turned down the request, saying that while all the necessary prerequisites for the inquiry against the four suspects had been met, the inquiry could not go ahead against Vassallo alone and had to wait for the appeal to conclude. 

“This would inevitably touch upon aspects contested by the other three since it is one and the same case,” Grixti said, adding that it was within the duties of the court to do all that is deemed appropriate to administer justice to the best of its abilities and in line with the principles of the rule of law. 

The concession for the running of St Luke's, Karin Grech, and Gozo General hospitals was eventually transferred to Steward Health Care, just 21 months after the agreement was signed. 

A leaked share purchase agreement revealed by the Shift News showed that a €5.14 million loan from a Jersey company held by VGH to a company owned by Vassallo effectively meant that the people running VGH had assisted Vassallo in buying out Technoline’s former shareholders, and secure exclusivity to supply the VGH concession.

The Jersey company, Vitals Procurement, is owned by a series of offshore companies in Jersey owned by VGH shareholders and propnents Ram Tumuluri and Shaukat Ali.

More in Court & Police