Updated | Government requests intervention in PN-filed court case to return €400 million from Steward

Later on Thursday, the PN reacted to government's announcement, saying that the latest update shows that Robert Abela is not willing to bring back the €400 million given to Steward

Updated at 5:26pm with statement from the PN

Government is going to request to intervene in a PN-filed court case aimed at pressuring the government to reimburse the concession to the Steward hospitals for more than €400 million, bringing the money back into state coffers.

The announcement comes only one day after the State Advocate rejected the assertion that the law empowered him to act of his own accord as described in the request but added the MPs were asking the court to “usurp” the duties of the executive and grant the State Advocate powers he did not have at law.

In a surprise press conference on Thursday, justice minister Jonathan Attard stated that the case is not only unsustainable, as he went on to describe it as “dangerous”. “It is dangerous because it directly attacks our country’s democratic principles,” Attard added.

The justice minister stated that the PN is trying to, “obtain what it could not obtain through the democratic process by making use of legal maneuvers.” Attard explained that Cabinet has decided to request to intervene in the proceedings, therefore having an active role in the case, “in order to protect national interest.”

Attard further outlined why government believes that the case is dangerous, as he stated that the case prejudices Malta’s case in ongoing arbitration proceedings. The justice minister went on to say that the case filed by the PN serves to aid Steward in the proceedings.

Responding to MaltaToday’s questions regarding the ongoing arbitration proceedings, Attard did not specify the sum being requested by the Maltese government from Steward, citing confidentiality reasons.

“He must answer to this damage,” Attard said referring to opposition leader Bernard Grech.

Flanking Attard during the press conference was parliamentary secretary Andy Ellul who echoed Attard’s sentiment, saying that the opposition is trying to turn the courts into a political matter. 

Ellul stated that the opposition does not care about the national interest. “In an attempt to do anything to undermine government, Bernard Grech is ready to undermine the international arbitration proceedings opened by government,” Ellul said, describing the maneuver as a populist one.

The parliamentary secretary stated that through its court case, the opposition is asking the court to exercise powers which it does not have. 

Today’s development is the latest in a years-long saga involving the Steward hospitals’ concession. 

Last October, the Court of Appeals confirmed the annulment of government’s privatisation deal, where the judges in question minced no words in saying that government colluded with Vitals/Steward, in violation of its duties to the country and the electorate. 

PN responds

Later on Thursday, the PN reacted to government's announcement, saying that the latest update shows that Robert Abela is not willing to bring back the €400 million given to Steward.

In a statement signed by PN leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia, the opposition stated that Abela is lost in trying to cover his tracks instead of getting back the €400 million handed to Steward.

"Everyone knows that it was the PN who fought so that the hospitals are given back to the Maltese people," the PN said, noting that government's statements confirm that Abela is trying to appease fraudsters.

The PN stated that it will continue its work so that the Maltese can take back its €400 million.