“Delaying tactics” by the government have been rejected by the Court of Appeal in the case instituted by Opposition Leader Adrian Delia wherein he is demanding the termination of the $2 billion Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) contract.
This is the largest contract given by the government in the last 40 years, with the management of three public hospitals “given to shady companies owned by hidden owners in far away countries,” the PN said in a statement.
An investigation by The Shift News has shown the complex web of offshore structures behind the once-secret owners of VGH. The investigation also revealed that Steward Healthcare got a lucrative contract worth €70 million per year for €1, while millions were raked by the former VGH owners from taxpayers’ money.
The case was filed by Opposition Leader against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Attorney General (AG), Vitals Global Healthcare and Malta Industrial Parks, calling for the contract to be rescinded because the conditions of the contract had not been met.
The Prime Minister, the AG and the Lands Authority had filed a preliminary plea that the suit was inadmissible as it should have been made before the date the deed was signed.
“The Prime Minister and the Attorney General wanted this case to be delayed as much as possible. They had requested the First Court not to give one judgment on the merits of the case, but to hand down various and several judgments, along the years, on each one of their preliminary pleas and arguments,” the Nationalist Party said.
Delia had objected to this request, saying it was obvious it would lead to delays taking up many long years to be decided. The First Court agreed, arguing that this case was of national importance and should not be delayed unnecessarily. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General appealed, but it was rejected by the Court of Appeal today.
“The Government’s decision to give three hospitals to Vitals, a company with no experience in the healthcare sector, was ‘the wrong deal’ ,” the PN said. The case will now proceed before the First Hall, Civil Court.
Last January, an investigation by The Shift News revealed that Steward Healthcare bought VGH, and with it a concession worth millions per year, for only €1, according to the agreement signed on 1 February last year, after a last minute deal struck in the dead of night at the Prime Minister’s office.
The lucrative contract entitles the owner to €70 million per year, or €188,000 per day, from the Maltese government (taxpayers) for potentially 99 years – a contract guaranteeing €7 billion in revenue.
Questions remain pending on the connection between Steward Healthcare and VGH, after the once-secret owners of VGH purchased companies that supply medical equipment to the public hospitals showed a clear link between the two companies on revenue to be generated in years to come.
VGH received €50 million from taxpayers funds to run the concession, but reportedly ended up €55 million in the red. After revealing that one of the major suppliers, Technoline, was bought for €5 million, The Shift News also reported it was not the only supplier Vitals bought with taxpayers’ money.
Despite a sale of €1, the real hidden owners behind VGH got paid millions. 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.
These hidden owners – some of which have been identified – hiding behind companies in Jersey – drained management fees and commissions from the embattled concessionaire VGH before Steward’s takeover.