Joseph Muscat evasive on claims his Accutor contract was worth €540,000

Joseph Muscat says his contract with Accutor was ‘open ended’ and both sides had the option to terminate it • Matthew Caruana Galizia claims payments to Muscat stopped when UBS closed Accutor’s accounts

Joseph Muscat (left) says no amounts are due to him from Swiss firm Accutor but would not clarify claims by Matthew Caruana Galizia (right) that the contract was worth €540,000
Joseph Muscat (left) says no amounts are due to him from Swiss firm Accutor but would not clarify claims by Matthew Caruana Galizia (right) that the contract was worth €540,000

Joseph Muscat would not say whether a contract he had with Swiss firm Accutor was worth €540,000 as claimed by Matthew Caruana Galizia on Friday.

But the former prime minister told MaltaToday that no amounts are due and the contract was “open ended” with both sides having the option to terminate it. The agreement was stopped during the pandemic, he said.

Accutor AG is run by lawyer Wasay Bhatti and the firm had received €3.6 million from Steward Healthcare during the period when it took over the 30-year concession of three Maltese state hospitals from Vitals Global Healthcare.

Just 24 hours after police searched Muscat’s private residence in Burmarrad as part of a magisterial inquiry into allegations of corruption in the VGH deal, Caruana Galizia claimed the €60,000 payment made by Accutor to Muscat, flagged by Times of Malta last November, was only half the story.

“What he got is a contract worth €540,000: €15,000 per month for a minimum of 36 months. The payments only paused when UBS flagged them and closed Accutor's accounts,” Caruana Galizia tweeted on Friday.

Asked to clarify his relationship with Accutor, Muscat said: “The final agreement was not for a 36-month period and was stopped during the pandemic… there is no link to the hospitals deal. I have provided the authorities with details of work I carried out.”

However, when pressed to say whether the contract was worth €540,000, Muscat insisted he had “nothing to add” and that his answers were clear enough.

Last November, Times of Malta revealed how Muscat had received €60,000 from Accutor in his Bank of Valletta account at a time when he was not prime minister but still an MP.

On Thursday, police from the Financial Crime Investigation Department raided Muscat’s house in Burmarrad as part of the ongoing magisterial inquiry into the hospitals concession deal.

VGH, a company with obscure shareholding and no track record in the health sector, was granted a concession to refurbish and run St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo General hospitals. It went belly-up after being unable to secure financing and 21 months into the contract sold the concession to American outfit Steward Healthcare.

The National Audit Office has slammed the tendering process, accusing the government of collusion with the shareholders of VGH.

In the summer of 2019, a few months before Muscat stepped down from prime minister, the government entered into a side agreement with Steward to cushion the impact of any court decision that could annul the contract. Government will pay Steward €100 million in penalties if a court tears up the concession agreement for whatever reason.

The agreement is being challenged in court by former Opposition leader Adrian Delia.

The nature of the relationship between Steward and Accutor is still unclear.