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Vitals signed another secret agreement with Montenegro government

Ram Tumuluri
VGH Director Ram Tumuluri interviewed by TVM News.

Vitals Global Healthcare signed (another) secret Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Montenegro on a hospital deal, just as they did with the government of Malta, discrediting the company’s claim that nothing has been decided in the VGH – Montenegro healthcare deal.

On 16 August, 2016 VGH signed a hidden MOU with the government of Montenegro, two months before Health Minister Budimir Szegrt announced that the Montenegrin government was in negotiations to award Vitals a Public Private Partnership for them to run Montenegrin healthcare institutions for a 30 year lease in return for a Euro 375 million investment.

As they did with the government of Malta, VGH pitched the idea to members of the government of Montenegro and signed a hidden deal before the public was informed of a partnership on the country’s hospitals. In Malta, the secret agreement with the government was signed five months before a call for proposals was issued, ensuring Vitals ‘won’ the bid.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Minister Konrad Mizzi, Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and OPM Communications Director Kurt Farrugia in Montenegro.

The Montenegro deal is uncannily similar to Malta’s. The difference between Montenegro and Malta is that the Montenegro deal was later cancelled following a change in government. The newly-installed Health Minister, Kenan Hrapović, tore up the agreement in January 2017.

Hrapović cancelled the MoU and the subsequent Public Private Partnership (PPP) on grounds that the tender was awarded in breach of procedures on the justifiability of granting concessions and concluding contracts through PPPs.

When Vitals went to Montenegro, the Maltese press in November 2016 had reported that Vitals had delivered a presentation to Montenegro – murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had called it a fixed deal and Vitals had said, “nothing is decided yet”.

Only days later, the Montenegro press revealed that months before Vitals pitched for a PPP in Montenegro they had already signed an MoU with the government. It was not picked up by the press in Malta.

Montenegro media reported that VGH established a presence in Montenegro in September, 2016.

In addition, further investigation by The Shift News shows that by the time the former health minister had announced the Montenegrin government was in negotiations with Vitals, 12 companies had already been set up in Jersey which took into account the Montenegro project.

The list of companies indicates that VGH’s Malta operations were intended to be held through the aptly named – VGH Malta Ltd – in Jersey. The names of the other companies with names of countries hint at their intended purpose or destination in different countries.

Annual returns for the Jersey companies continue to be filed, as recently as March 2017, showing the companies are still active.

The documentation filed by Ashok Rattehalli in Maltese courts in December 2017 to protect his interests includes correspondence with Jersey lawyers instructed by Ram Tumuluri to prepare subscription documents for Rattehalli to invest through a “Jersey holding company”.

The Shift News has been analysing and pursuing leads from the documents submitted by the panicked investor in Maltese courts, revealing that financial trouble hit a key company in the British Virgin Islands a month before discussions on the sale to Steward Healthcare starting being held.

The documents also exposed the hidden investors, how a late night meeting at Castille tried to facilitate the deal with Steward Heathcare, Minister Konrad Minister who had negotiated the deal with VGH and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri were at that meeting.

The impact faced by Malta’s national healthcare service as a result of VGH’s troubles  is unclear. The Prime Minister’s Office has not provided answers to questions sent last week.

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