The reaction of the Party in government to revelations by The Shift News of the hidden owners of Vitals Global Healthcare fleecing money off taxpayers and profiting from the ill health of citizens for years to come, was that ‘this was nothing new’.
Not at all.
There is a great deal that is new that exposes just how those who negotiated the deal abused the hard work of Maltese taxpayers for their own profit. Did we have an indication of this before? Yes. Did they act in any way on revelations before now? No.
It takes a certain lack of humanity and a blind greed for power and money to say what the Labour Party said after the findings published. It is important to note that the new revelations came from an agreement the government protected and tried to keep hidden.
The information it contained, showing how Malta’s public hospitals were sold for €1 while others hidden behind offshore companies got millions behind the Maltese taxpayers’ back makes it clear why the government never wanted this published.
The agreement also reveals the government knowingly lied about who the real owners were of the concession negotiated by Minister Konrad Mizzi and promoted by Joseph Muscat before the 2013 election.
But the least you can do when you’re caught with your pants down is to apologise, rather than think you can continue to screw those who gave you their trust.
Health Minister Chris Fearne did not think there was nothing new. He committed to rolling back the agreement with Technoline, included in the findings published by The Shift News.
Except anything he decides to roll it back, after years of keeping silent on what he clearly understands to be a corrupt deal, will only result in taxpayers having to fork out more money to release themselves from the deal.
There is no way taxpayers can win from this deal. It works against citizens in every aspect. Even if they try to fix it, it will cost taxpayers more money to be freed from a corrupt deal.
Make no mistake: the Vitals deal is another Electrogas deal – a bogus ‘public private partnership’, even worse than the type that Tony Blair is blamed for in the UK which saddled the UK NHS and school system with debts that they cannot feasibly service.
The government gives away an asset or utility promising to pay millions or even billions over the years to use its own asset or utility in return for a pittance of an “investment”.
Mizzi’s twist on this doomed economic policy that will eventually come back to haunt Malta is that these deals even provide less than arm’s length guarantees to help the ‘investor’ make that investment or raise funding or cover his debts altogether.
Besides bringing into question the treatment of such contracts altogether, a matter raised by EuroStat in relation to Malta last year was that with that type of State “help” anyone – no matter how broke – can handle a PPP which makes them prone to corruption. Mizzi’s PPP model fits squarely into this.
They all follow a similar pattern of layers upon layers of companies and commissions to profiteers and enablers that include shady people with a dodgy past, no real resources other than debt and having links to the political class in Malta.
Both deals were designed to hide the real owners and profiteers from the public, while securing income for years after they were out of the picture.
Those are years in which they continue to make millions off stealing taxpayers’ money, while you as an individual are hoping to reach retirement, paying your taxes and national insurance in the hope that you may receive a minimum pension that will not even give you a roof over your head.
People living in garages, no problem. Hospitals below standard, no problem. Kickbacks to politicians, no problem. And as long as you support the argument that ‘there will always be corruption so it might as well be us,’ you are defending your abuser.
VGH got over €50 million in taxpayers money, which also covered the costs of staff salaries. They left with over €55 million in debt. So who took them?
This is what the previously hidden sale contract published by The Shift News explains:
- For €1, Steward Healthcare got a concession worth €70 million per year, or €188,000 per day, from Maltese taxpayers for potentially 99 years and €7 billion in revenue. But others got paid.
- These payments included €1.4 million to a mysterious Dubai company, and another €1.85 million to a previously undiscovered individual as part of the Steward sale.
- The real owners – hiding behind companies in Jersey – drained management fees and commissions from the embattled concessionaire VGH before Steward’s takeover.
- Rather than focusing on delivering on the concession over three public hospitals in Malta, the priorities of VGH’s once-secret owners were to milk the concession and expand to other countries at Maltese taxpayers’ expense.
- They were using the fact that they got a concession in Malta as a selling point to other governments. They were signing agreements in other countries even as they were negotiating a bail out in Malta.
- They also focused on expanding into other areas, by funding the €5.14 million take over of medical supplier Technoline, and giving themselves exclusivity of supply. It was not the only deal of its kind.
- Only two months earlier, they took over another medical supplier – Mtrace plc – for over €2 million. It supplies materials for diagnosis and treatment of cancers, among other diseases.
This is not the full picture yet. We do not yet know how much was paid out to the secret owners or to ‘suppliers’ brought on to the gravy train.
Also, documents seen by The Shift News refer to dealings by Vitals in other countries such as Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Oman, Libya, Macedonia, Georgia and others. Were these trips and other related matters funded by Maltese taxpayers?
Other questions remain, of course. What else did they do and spend on? How did this happen? Who knew and let it happen? What could have been done to prevent it?
We will keep working until we answer them. The government will again say ‘nothing new’. Of course, because this scandalous deal should have never started.