The case of the missing memo

Things disappear in Malta.

The island is prey to a paranormal Bermuda Triangle phenomenon, but this one doesn’t cause ships and airplanes to vanish without a trace.

No, the Maltese Triangle works in more mysterious ways. It swallows up inconvenient documents, court evidence and even devices like Keith Schembri’s missing mobile.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Malta and the hidden schemers behind VGH was feared lost in the Maltese Triangle, too.

And that’s such a shame, given how much work the interested parties put into it. They even signed it a full six months before the government announced that a public tender or request for proposals would be issued for the concession.

Okay, yes, this was completely illegal, and evidence of collusion. But don’t be jealous of all their hard work, Nellie Negative. What are you, a traitor to Malta?

Still, it’s strange how hard they fought to keep the document hidden, given how proud they were of the hospitals deal.

They ignored questions about it in parliament, refused Freedom of Information requests, and spent three years in court fighting to prevent it being made public because… you guessed it… ‘commercial sensitivity’.

But when the National Audit Office finally delivered a scathing report card on the Vitals Global Healthcare project, Daddy Abela stepped in and asked to see the original MOU.

And that’s when they discovered it had vanished without a trace into the Maltese Triangle. Oh no!

But items do occasionally come back…

The NAO finally has this elusive document. The same NAO that spent three years sifting through the other hospital concession documents and concluded that any due diligence done in advance of the deal was “grossly inadequate”.

They also found clear evidence of “collusive action between the parties acting on behalf of government with the investors of the VGH render[ing] the entire process dubious.”

In other words, the deal was rigged from the start — and it wasn’t rigged to benefit the taxpayer.

Of course, nothing’s ever done with these NAO reports. They’re shoved away in a drawer to collect dust, just like those FIAU reports on Mizzi and Schembri.

The money these people siphoned off is long gone. Actually, ‘siphoned’ isn’t the right image. They were grabbing cash like a frat boy shotgunning beers at a keg party. Your money vanished into a web of offshore accounts and you won’t get it back.

But there is a risk that the NAO’s findings could be used to reverse the shady deal and restore the three public hospitals — Gozo General, St. Luke’s and Karin Grech — to the Maltese people.

The missing Memorandum of Understanding is the smoking gun that proves without any doubt that this entire scheme was corrupt to the core.

When the MOU finally did turn up as a result of Abela’s directive to ‘look harder — and you’d better find it’, the excuses associated with this document changed, too.

“It’s not the same company,” went the refrain. “Therefore, there was no collusion”.

In the words of the inimitable Doctor Watson, “No shit, Sherlock.” Of course, it’s not the same company.

It’s important for the main players to discredit this incriminating piece of evidence, but it isn’t difficult to see through their attempts to cloud the waters.

The whole point of all those nested offshore companies and private agreements was to hide the real beneficial owners who would benefit from them.

And I’ll tell you right now, no one sets up a venture in such a convoluted way when they aren’t trying to hide something.

Malta Enterprise may not have been keen on finding out, but The Shift’s army of researchers and legal experts patiently untangled the threads. And just as surely as flipping over an Egrant reveals scuttling Kinks and consorts, that tangled web of agreements and offshore entities brings us back to the usual suspects.

Forget about all those names for a moment. Pivot Holdings, AGMC and Bluestone are just chaff thrown in the breeze to confuse you.

Follow the money trail, and shine a light on where it leads.

The first MOU — the one they tried to vanish — was signed by Cardona for Malta, and four men representing a bunch of companies: Mohammed Shoaib Walajahi, Shaukat Ali Chaudhry Abdulghafoor, Ashok Rattehalli and Mark Pawley.

Each of those men owned the companies they signed on behalf of — although in Shaukat Ali’s case, his son and his Dubai-based advisor (Walajahi) owned parts of it, too.

That agreement dealt with a long term concession for Gozo General Hospital, and for the building of St. Barts.

The original investors then used this first MOU — which said they’d come to an understanding with the government of Malta to move the project forward — to raise money from some additional investors.

And that’s where the second MOU comes in, the one signed on 23 November 2014. That second MOU brought in no one’s favourite Indian-Canadian fraudster Ram Tumuluri and an investor named Ambrish Gupta.

The offshore companies mentioned in the agreements were set up, along with a bunch of other offshore companies.

And then these guys all signed a third agreement in January 2015 to say Bluestone Investments Malta, the same company that went on to win Konrad Mizzi phoney tender, was the company they all co-owned.

That last secret agreement also noted that, no matter what the public documents might say, the people named in it controlled and effectively owned Bluestone.

In other words, the public documents were made to say one thing, but the secret agreement between the men behind the deal stipulated who actually controlled Bluestone Investments Malta, the company behind Vitals Global Healthcare.

We only found out how these MOUs were linked because one of the hidden investors filed a court case to stop the takeover of the VGH concession by Steward. He was afraid his co-conspirators were trying to screw him out of his share.

So yeah, you can dismiss the government’s smokescreen about the MOU relating to “a different company”.

It’s amazing how complicated some of these offshore structures can be. And those were just the structures related to ownership.

The Shift revealed that these guys set up a bunch of other companies to siphon even more of your money away through side deals. Supply contracts that obligated the new hospital to buy medical supplies from themselves at inflated prices, rather than choosing the most competitive local suppliers and importers.

They use offshore structures like these to hide the identities of the people who are actually cashing in.

When you throw nominee shareholders into the mix, the real owners can be entirely anonymous.

For example, you would never have known about the existence of Panama companies Hearnville and Tillgate if the servers of Mossack Fonseca hadn’t been hacked. And without those documented email trails, you’d never know Mizzi and Schembri owned them. What a relief it must have been for the owner of Egrant that Karl Cini used Skype instead of email to set that company up.

And what of the disgraced ex-prime minister who was acting as some sort of go-between for Steward with his successor’s regime?

Did he pop up to protect the interests of the Maltese people in the deal his own star minister pushed through during his soiled reign? Or is he there protecting his own or a friend’s interests?

Look at what they did, not what they say.

The Panama company structures were opened within 72 hours of the March 2013 election.

Muscat pushed out former Minister of Health Godfrey Farrugia and put Konrad Mizzi in charge of a new combined Ministry for Health and Energy in March 2014 — coincidentally, the two portfolios with public assets that ended up drained.

With the star Minister of Shady Deals in place, the path was cleared for Vitals and Electrogas.

The Shift reported that the first MOU was signed with the hidden investors behind what would become VGH on 10 October 2014.

Electrogas won the energy consortium in October 2014, too, and the secret trip to Azerbaijan took place that December.

Is it any wonder they fought to keep that first MOU hidden for three years, and then, when asked by NAO for a copy, ‘lost’ it?


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