in

An epidemic of shamelessness

Konrad Mizzi drawing
Photo: ICIJ

Konrad Mizzi, the Minister who negotiated the deal with the former owners of Vitals Global Healthcare, denied responsibility for the use of taxpayers’ money for the secret buying of a company to supply medical equipment to the national healthcare service, revealed as the result of a probe by The Shift News.

Yet, he is responsible. He is responsible for every measure of filth in the cesspit of scandal that is the deal he negotiated on three of Malta’s public hospitals. It is another wave to hit the same Minister after another investigation by the press brought to light the hidden ownership of a company that documentary evidence showed was set up to send kickbacks to his Panama company as well as that of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

Mizzi defended the agreement, saying it was needed because of “the state the hospitals were left in”. But the question is not whether the hospitals required investment; it’s about his choice of shady people to hand them over to, all the while protecting their hidden identity from the Maltese public.

Investigative journalism has already shown it was a done deal before the public got to know anything about the government’s intention to give away the country’s hospitals. After his back room deals with shady people, Mizzi cannot now say he is not responsible for the actions of those he handpicked, backed by a government that ploughed on, overriding public objections to the deal.

Mizzi would not be commenting on his “disagreement” with exclusive contracts signed by those he partnered with, behind people’s backs, if The Shift News had not published an agreement the government kept hidden.

He would not be commenting on them because the veil of secrecy the government placed on this whole deal – just like the Electrogas deal – meant they were never pressed to explain plans to exploit Maltese citizens.

It is impossible that they did not know – and even if that were the case, then they are still responsible for landing the Maltese public in this mess. 

They kept the public in the dark on what was happening with taxpayers’ money, with the Prime Minister defending it as “a private deal”.  It’s like a start up company telling its investors they have no right to be informed on company plans to ensure their return on investment, as the company owners take off with the money leaving a pile of additional debt behind.

It was a deal Mizzi negotiated in which the risks were stacked on citizens, who emerged as the real losers. The government knowingly lied to the Maltese public on who the real owners were given the concession to operate a major part of the country’s national healthcare service. Then he has the audacity to say that he is not responsible for the Maltese people being conned by the shady people he befriended and forced them into an agreement with.

A company owner telling investors that he was not responsible for a deal he negotiated to outsource a chunk of the company’s operations, telling his shareholders that he was not responsible for taking that decision that led the company to the ground, would not have much of a future. Neither should Mizzi. He not only failed, he has refused to accept responsibility for his actions, over and over and over again. And the Prime Minister continues to protect him for reasons known only to him.

The government denied the public its right to know how its tax money was being spent. The government denied the public the right to know that it was funding the establishment of a shady network of offshore companies hiding individuals who were setting themselves up to profit from their illness and death all the way to retirement.

The revelations by The Shift News show that rather than focusing on delivering on the concession, the priorities of Vitals’ once-secret owners were to milk the concession and expand to other countries at Maltese taxpayers’ expense.

It really was “a deal set up to fail”. Meanwhile, the government is again playing games to stall proceedings in the court case initiated by Opposition Leader Adrian Delia to revert the deal.

The damage caused by this deal, just like the Electrogas deal, has wide repercussions that will continue to be felt for years to come. At that point, we will probably have no clue where Mizzi is, just like we have no clue where his wife who told us to assess her €13,000 a month salary on what she did for the country.

Yet she is nowhere to be seen as the government ploughs on with yet another controversial deal with Huawei – a company being kicked out of every decent democracy where it’s trying to establish its controversial Chinese technology.

It is by design that Mizzi gets to be the ‘Minister of All Shady Deals’ as the government conveniently transfers every major contract involving state assets to his control. You would be mistaken for thinking he is still Energy Minister as he is sent off to sign yet more deals on the country’s behalf, while the real Energy Minister tries to figure out what is going on.

The Labour Party reacted to further evidence on corruption in the hospitals deal by saying the information was “nothing new” – a clear sign the government has no intention of accepting responsibility. It is, in fact, precisely that which is “not new”.

Find out what the investigation revealed in ‘The Big Sellout’ series.

A placard at the protest marking one year since Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination reads: 'you killed a journalist to avoid jail

When silence means consent

Council of Europe Protection of Journalism

Journalists’ association joins international condemnation of attacks on The Shift News