[WATCH] Grech says PN government will not fork out one cent to revoke ‘illegal, corrupt Steward deal’

Bernard Grech by Adrian Delia’s side in action holding government liable for damages in Vitals deal

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

Nationalist MP Adrian Delia and Opposition leader Bernard Grech have filed a judicial protest holding the Labour government liable for all damages incurred in the hospitals’ concession granted to the now-defunct Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Healthcare.

Delia, the former PN leader, accused the government of acting fraudulently and against the national interest “with rampant corruption and grave negligence” by dishing out the concession to VGH and Steward.

He alleged that the right procedures were not followed by Malta Industrial Parks and the Lands Authority in according the public land under emphyteusis to the healthcare companies, and that the deal was not subject to a “serious evaluation” but illegally negotiated in advance by the government of Joseph Muscat and VGH.

READ MORE Malta could foot €100 million bill if Steward contract rescinded by court

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said a PN government would not consent to paying out any liability to Steward Healthcare for the revocation of the contract.

“This government has no moral standing in dealing with this problem. We are not ready to give any money to people or companies who have clearly committed a criminal act. A PN government will pay no compensation on a deal that is illegal or corrupt – we will not negotiate with criminals,” Opposition leader Bernard Grech told MaltaToday when asked about the risk of penalties for the rescision of the Steward concession.

A side-letter hammered out in August 2019 with former Labour minister Konrad Mizzi gave Steward “escape clause”, that turns any termination of its concession into a government default. The wording is part of an agreement in which the government is acknowledging a €28 million loan from Bank of Valletta to Steward is acknowledged as “lender’s debt”.

The Labour government agreed that should the hospitals’ concession be terminated by a court of law – for whatever reason, and even if Steward is in breach of contract – such an event would be a government default. That would mean that all debts incurred by Steward would be passed on to the government, and the American company would still be liable for a €100 million contractual pay-out for its equity.

Delia appeared by the side of PN leader Bernard Grech in a press conference on Saturday morning to explain the judicial protest.

It was the first time that Delia’s political campaign on the controversial health privatisation deal had been accorded the visible support of the leadership rival who took his place in an election pushed by backbench rebels.

In March 2016, VGH was granted a 30-year lease agreement with the Maltese government to operate the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals. Just 21 months after securing 30-year lease to operate Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals, VGH sold its concession to Steward Healthcare. Since then, the American-owned Steward has been seeking a renegotiation of its privatisation contract, but the jury is still out as to whether the Maltese government will proceed with the controversial concession.