Repubblika requests criminal probe into VGH hospitals deal

In its application, the NGO says that ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi’s behaviour was suggestive of corruption

Repubblika are calling for a magisterial inquiry into the 99-year concession
Repubblika are calling for a magisterial inquiry into the 99-year concession

The NGO Repubblika has filed a court application requesting a magisterial inquiry into a public private partnership entered into by the government with a the company Vitals Global Healthcare for the administration of three of Malta’s hospitals.

In a statement, the NGO said that in its application it had shown how ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi had given the group of investors behind VGH an unfair advantage in the contract’s selection process.

The fact that the company had no prior experience in healthcare and “guzzled up millions in public funds which nobody has any account of” made the ministers’ behaviour suggestive of “corruption and money laundering, among other crimes”, the NGO said.

If the request is accepted, it would be the first time Scicluna and Cardona have been the subject of a magisterial inquiry.

Repubblika said that despite there being abundant evidence of wrongdoing, the country’s institutions had not done their job and had taken no action about “serious suspicions of corruption and money laundering”.

It said it had requested an inquiry to preserve evidence, in the absence of any investigation by the police, adding that the fact that it had decided to go request an inquiry itself didn’t absolve the police of their responsibility to investigate.

READ MORE: Liquidity problems pushed Vitals to seek concession sale

Back in 2015, the company Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) was granted a concession by the government for it to run Karin Grech, St Luke’s and the Gozo General hospitals.

In February 2018 the concession was transferred to Steward Health Care after VGH had failed to meet a number of contractual milestones related to the development of the hospitals.

In it’s 153-page application, Repubblika said that it had outlined all the “publicly known facts about the 99-year deal worth €7 billion through which a company with no experience entrusted with the running of three public hospitals”.

Republikka stressed that after having received somewhere between €50 and €100 million, VGH were allowed to transfer the hospitals to a third-party “with no public benefit but presumably at a considerable profit”.

This, it said, was blatantly in breach of the contract presented to parliament by the government.

The application also accuses VGH of making a false declaration, noting that in February last year, four days before the transfer of the concession was announced, VGH informed the Registry of Companies that it had changed its address from Ta’ Xbiex to an address in Old Bakery Street, Valletta.

However, it says that five days later, the law firm Ganado Advocates wrote to the Registry of Companies stating that it had never given its consent for the firm’s address to be used as VGH’s registered office.

The NGO also pointed to Ivan Vassallo, the owner of the company Technoline, who “benefitted from the corrupt privatization through favourable contracts”. Repubblika said it had also requested an inquiry in this regard.

The application was signed by lawyer and Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi.

READ MORE: Vitals owners secretly purchased medical supplier with exclusivity for Malta hospitals

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