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Vitals investor determined to stop sale to Steward Healthcare

What was supposed to be the new Gozo hospital

Vitals investor Ashok Rattehalli has filed a second warrant of prohibitory injunction this morning to try to stop the sale of Malta hospitals concession to Steward Healthcare, despite Minister Konrad Mizzi saying the American company was due to take over operations this week.

Rattehalli had already taken the same legal action on 19 December to try to stop the sale after he had not been given what he was promised according to agreements signed with other investors. The documents he submitted lifted the lid on the hidden investors behind Vitals.

The Shift reported yesterday how a meeting with Rattehalli was held at the Prime Minister’s Office the following night, attended by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, Minister Konrad Mizzi, Ram Tumuluri for VGH, and Shaukat Ali Abdul Ghafoor (Chaudhry) who has a stake in the hospitals deal and has links with one of the directors of Technoline, according to company documents.

Shaukat Ali Abdul Ghafoor (left).

The following day, on 21 December, Vitals had filed what is known as a counter-warrant requesting Rattehalli’s warrant of prohibitory injunction to be withdrawn. Rattehalli had not pursued further action on the request he had filed in Court only two days earlier.

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Then this morning, he filed another warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop the sale to Steward Healthcare, indicating no new agreement had been reached despite the government’s intervention.

Questions sent to the Prime Minister’s Office asking about the outcome of the meeting and any possible repercussions on Malta’s healthcare service if an agreement is not reached, remain unanswered. The Shift also asked the government when it became aware Vitals was facing serious financial trouble.

The Shift has shown that financial trouble hit one of the mother companies in the British Virgin Islands last August. Further investigations by The Shift into the documents submitted by Rattehalli led to a trail in the British Virgin Islands and the discovery of a court document there that showed that company – Asia Harimau Investments Limited – was facing bankruptcy and could bring down the chain of companies hiding Vitals interests that control operations in Malta.

Legal experts who have analysed the documents presented in court by Rattehalli told The Shift this may trigger nightmare scenarios for Malta’s national health service if insolvency clauses in agreements were triggered. It could affect the control of the entire structure if, for example, a liquidator would be appointed, financial and corporate lawyers have told The Shift.

The warrant of prohibitory injunction filed by Rattehalli today is the same as the one he had filed on 19 December. He had not been given what he was promised: a seat on the Medical Board as well as in the Operating Management Team. On top of that, he was promised 5% of the shares in Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) that would kick in once the agreement with the government was signed.

Today, he notes that he had withdrawn the first one in good faith after assurances from various representatives of Vitals that his rights would not be prejudiced and so as not to stall negotiations with third parties for a sale.

Yet, he claims that despite his good faith, the relevant companies (Bluestone / Vitals) did not provide any substantive guarantees that his rights would be safeguarded. He adds that in the event of sale he would have no juridical relationship with the buyers so they would not be required to honour his rights.

Rattehalli sees this legal action to stop the sale to Steward Healthcare as his only available remedy. The impact such action may have on Malta’s national health service is not yet known.

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