Jason Azzopardi calls for special magistrate to investigate corruption

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi has called for the appointment of a special inquiring magistrate for cases of corruption in Parliament speech

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi gave reasons why cases of corruption merit an inquiring magistrate appointed solely and expressly to investigate and prosecute said cases.

Azzopardi was speaking in Parliament today when he said that Maltese law stipulates that an inquiring magistrate depends on the police force while simultaneously investigating a myriad other cases.

"The corrupt Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) contract, a €2 billion contract cannot but be subject to a criminal investigation," Azzopardi said of the hospital concession scheme.

In June 2015, VGH was the designated chosen bidder to sign the contract with government for the service concession, tasked to run three public hospitals.

"There were diverse individuals and local entrepreneurs who submitted a request for proposal (RFP) but it was not humanly possible for them to study the bid, work on it and find foreign parners since these had less than three months," Azzopardi said, implying as Opposition leader Adrian Delia did last week, that the concession was intentionally designed to fail.

Konrad Mizzi, who was the health and energy minister at the time, was the individual who signed the contract with VGH.

Last week, a report by The Shift News revealed that Vitals had secretly purchased medical supplier Technoline with exclusivity for Maltese hospitals.

Mizzi denied government having a hand in this secret dealing and told MaltaToday that VGH is a private entity and could deal with whoever it liked.

VGH eventually sold out to American healthcare giant Steward healthcare.

Azzopardi presented a chronology of events that led to this scenario, adding that VGH "had no, absolutely no experience anywhere in the world with regards to the health sector."

In March 2014, Konrad Mizzi was appointed minister of health, replacing now Partit Demokratiku leader Godfrey Farrugia. In October of 2014, the society Pivot Holdings Ltd was registered in Conspicua Road in Paola, where the parent company of VGH, Bluestone Investment Malta Ltd, is also registered

"Bluestone Investment Malta never presented any audited accounts as it is obliged to do by law since it was incorporated in 2014," Azzopardi said, adding that Asad Ali Shaukat, one of the shareholders of Pivot Holdings Ltd, received thousands of euros in connection with VGH negotiations related to consultancy commissions and allowances.

It was in June 2015 that Mizzi announced that the Vitals/Bluestone joint offer had won the bid.

On the 31 May 2016, the late investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia published a due diligence report that condemned VGH. The report states that the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri was "close" to VGH President Ram Tumuluri and Shaukat and was described as the Prime Minister's consultant.

He was later revealed to be one of the investors in VGH since the end of 2013.

"VGH failing and selling out to Steward Healthcare was a done deal. This contract was worked out perfectly to fail so the corrupt in Castille would thrive," Azzopardi said.

He added that Opposition Leader Adrian Delia was right to open a court case against a corrupt contract. "We wouldn't have known all this if it weren't for the independent media. There's enough for one to see that Konrad Mizzi [amongst others] committed fraud," Azzopardi said, adding that an independent special inquiring magistrate was desperately needed for such cases.