Chris Fearne’s campaign manager Carmen Ciantar tenders ‘suspension’ to fight bribery allegations

Carmen Ciantar denies Pakistani media report alleging she received bribes from VGH but suspends herself from CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services 'in the interest of the ministry and government'

FMS chief executive Carmen Ciantar has tendered her 'suspension'
FMS chief executive Carmen Ciantar has tendered her 'suspension'

Carmen Ciantar, who heads the Foundation for Medical Services, has tendered her “suspension” from the post following bribery claims in a Pakistani news portal.

Ciantar was reacting to a news report that alleged she received thousands in payments from a company linked to Vitals Global Healthcare.

Daily Pakistan reported on Wednesday that Ciantar received several payments totalling €443,500 from Gozo International Medicare Ltd between October 2015 and February 2016.

The news portal claimed that the information came from a leaked tranche of banking documents, which indicated there were at least 15 invoices submitted to Gozo International Medicare by Ciantar.

The news report also alleged that the money was paid from the company’s account at the Dubai-headquartered Emirates NBD Bank. The portal claimed that the company then transferred €750,000 as a “loan repayment” into an account at Bordier & Cie Geneva, a Swiss private bank, registered to a Panamanian entity, Glotal Finance Inc., which purportedly referenced Ciantar.

MaltaToday was unable to independently verify the claims made by Daily Pakistan.

Earlier in the day, in comments to MaltaToday, Ciantar flatly refuted the allegations. “The allegation is totally and absolutely untrue. I will definitely reserve all my rights at law to defend my integrity and I will proceed with all measures available at law to defend my reputation and integrity against anyone who publicizes it.”

However, a couple of hours later the Deputy Prime Minister’s office disseminated an email Ciantar sent Chris Fearne in which she announced her resignation to be able to defend herself. Calling it a ‘suspension’, Ciantar told the minister her action was in no way an admission of guilt.

Her email reads: “Following the media report I am tendering my suspension to be in a position to defend my position. I will definitely reserve my rights at law through my legal counsel. I am doing this in the interest of the ministry and the government and this decision is in no shape or form any admission of guilt on my part. I will take all my legal measures at my disposal to defend my name and my integrity.”

Gozo International Medicare, a now defunct company, was owned by Crossrange Holdings Ltd and had as its directors Mark Pawley and Walajahi Mohammad Shoaib. The ultimate beneficiary owners of Crossrange Holdings, including Pawley and Ram Tumuluri, went on to form Vitals Global Healthcare, the company that was awarded a controversial concession to run three public hospitals – St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo General.

The Pakistani news site said the first of the initial payments, described as travel expenses reimbursements by Ciantar, came six weeks before VGH was granted the 30-year hospitals concession.

During that period Ciantar was CEO of the utility billing company ARMS, having been put on the public pay role by disgraced minister Konrad Mizzi. ARMS had no link to the hospitals concession.

Ciantar was appointed CEO of FMS, the government entity that manages healthcare facilities, in July 2016 by Chris Fearne, who became health minister in April of that year instead of Mizzi.

Mizzi had been stripped of his energy and health portfolios after Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed that he owned a company in Panama along with Keith Schembri.

Ciantar was Fearne’s campaign manager in his bid to secure the Labour Party leadership in January 2020.

The hospitals concession contract was struck down by a judge in February on the basis of fraud and unfulfilled promises.