Ministers once again under criminal inquiry over Vitals deal

Appeal by finance minister Edward Scicluna and former ministers Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona against criminal inquiry into the Vitals Global Healthcare deal has been denied 

Madam Justice Edwina Grima has thrown out an appeal filed by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and former ministers Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona against the holding of a criminal inquiry into the Vitals Global Healthcare deal.

The inquiry had been requested by rule of law NGO Repubblika in order to establish whether Scicluna, Cardona and 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 allegation had been made in the press.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit had upheld the request last July, defending investigative journalists, saying their work was crucial to ensure democracy in the country.

In a decree handed down in October, Mr. Justice Giovanni Grixti had overturned Magistrate Stafrace Zammit’s ruling. 

But in a judgment handed down today in the Criminal Court, Madam Justice Grima ruled that just because a criminal inquiry was underway, this did not equate to a prosecution. “It only means that an inquiry must be held to establish whether the facts reported amount…to the crime attributed, a decision which will be taken by the inquiring magistrate and not this court…”

The appeal had originally been assigned to Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera who, however, abstained, on the grounds that the appellants were ministers in the same cabinet as her brother, Environment Minister Jose’ Herrera.

The case was subsequently assigned to Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja who, in a decree delivered on Friday, also chose to abstain, stating clearly that he was choosing to do so in the light of the ongoing case filed by Repubblika, challenging the current system of judicial appointments.