Notary who published Vitals contract is charged with misappropriating clients' deposits

The notary was fined €60,500 by the FIAU for systematic compliance failures relating to preventing money laundering

The notary who published the 2016 contract granting three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare later resigned his warrant after being charged with misappropriating client funds.

Thomas Vella’s name crops up a dozen times in Friday’s judgement by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale, in which the concession and its ancillary agreements were declared null on the grounds of fraud.

Vella is the son of the late judge Patrick Vella, who had himself been jailed in 2007 for bribery.

In 2020, Thomas Vella was fined €60,500 by the FIAU, for systematic compliance failures relating to the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations which were noted during an inspection in 2018.

Amongst the breaches reported were failures to conduct customer, business and jurisdiction risk assessments and a failure to carry out enhanced due diligence measures “for a particular file which included a high-risk situation.”

According to the Times of Malta, in May last year, Ireland’s High court had ordered Vella’s insurers to pay €3.1 million in compensation to a man left brain damaged and needing round the clock medical care after Vella ran him over in Sliema.

State news portal TVM had later reported that Vella had been ordered to refund more than €20,000 to a French client in February 2021. The notary had been entrusted with the money to pay for taxes in connection with a property purchase, but had never been forwarded to the Commissioner for Tax.

However, this judgement cannot be found on the court’s website. Several other cases reported in a Facebook page set up by clients of the former notary are understood to be ongoing.

Vella had handed in his warrant in December 2019, after being charged with fraud and misappropriation.

The choice of notary is but a minor footnote in the story of the hospitals deal, now confirmed as having been mired in corruption at every stage, but arguably also speaks volumes about the intent of the contracting parties.

The concession agreement published by the former notary, between Malta Industrial Parks Limited, later Indis, and the Commissioner for Lands on one side and Ram Tumuluri on behalf of Vitals Global Healthcare Assets Limited on the other, was struck down in spectacular fashion on Friday, with the judge questioning how the government had allowed itself to be strong-armed into changing the agreement to the benefit of one party.

Under that agreement, St Luke’s Hospital, Karin Grech Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital had been handed to the obscure consortium.

Less than two years after being granted the concession, Vitals had sold it on to Steward Healthcare, together with the €55 million debt accrued by VGH, for just €1.

The judgement described the actions of both Vitals and its successor in title, Steward Healthcare, as well as their investors as “fraudulent and possibly criminal” and slammed the due diligence carried out by the government.


Clarification: A previous version of this report had incorrectly stated that Vella had been stripped of his warrant