The former military hospital at Mtarfa, leased out by the government to private investors to develop into a new international school, has found its way into the grasp of the Zammit Tabona family, owners of the Fortina Group, despite the fact that they weren’t involved in the original negotiations for the concession, The Shift can reveal.
The Zammit Tabonas’ interest in this state property concession only emerged a few weeks ago when Mtarfa residents were called for a public consultation meeting, organised by their local council, to meet the hospital’s new owners and share their plans.
Attendees of the meeting told The Shift that they were surprised to be addressed by Edward Zammit Tabona, CEO of the Fortina Group, and Fabio Muscat, the main shareholder of the Ozo Group – an outsourcing and services company in which the Zammit Tabonas also have a shareholding. Their involvement only became clear when the two presented details of their plans for the former hospital.
Following a public tender issued in 2017, the Mtarfa hospital concession was won by a partnership between Haileybury Malta, which was set up in 2019 and is co-owned by Stanley Logistics, a UK-registered company, and RTG, owned by Ruth Trapani Galea Feriol, the daughter of former Fortina Group chief Michael Zammit Tabona.
This prime site comprising an area of more than 8,000 square metres was handed over on a 40-year lease that obliges the holders to invest €15 million in a new international school, catering mainly for foreign students, in direct competition with the Verdala International school.
Through a deed signed with the Lands Authority, at the time headed by James Piscopo, the former CEO of the Labour Party, Haileybury Ltd is bound to pay a lease of €50,000 a year for the first five years of the concession, which goes up to €125,000 a year after.
A few weeks ago, The Shift revealed that after resigning from the Lands Authority, James Piscopo was recruited as an advisor to the Fortina Group.
In response to emailed questions from The Shift earlier this week, Fortina Group CEO Edward Zammit Tabona confirmed that he had addressed Mtarfa residents about the project.
He revealed that the investors have appointed his group as project manager and that Fabio Muscat, his partner at the Ozo Group, is now acting as the investors’ company secretary.
So far, the Zammit Tabonas do not appear to hold any shares in Haileybury, according to the Malta Business Registry.
The owners of the Fortina Group have recently come under fire for their attempts to build a new jetty for their tourist boats in Balluta Bay, risking the destruction of a popular swimming area.
Trapani Galea and the Zammit Tabonas
Research conducted by The Shift shows that Ruth Trapani Galea Feriol was already a business partner of Edward Zammit Tabona’s before this deal: the two are cousins in the same family that owns the rapidly expanding Fortina Group.
Trapani Galea Feriol’s father, Michael Zammit Tabona, a former Labour appointed ambassador to Finland, was forced to resign after likening German chancellor Angela Merkel to Hitler. Zammit Tabona has also been linked to a series of government scandals, including the Vitals hospital deal and the Mozura windfarm in Montenegro.
Trapani Galea Feriol is currently also a government-appointed board member of the Malta Gaming Authority.
Together with Edward Zammit Tabona, she is also a shareholder of MJAM and Jamfrac.
The Mtarfa hospital concessionaire is a shareholder and board member of Inside Out Company, along with her husband, Michael Trapani Galea Feriol, his sister Greta Apap Bologna and her husband Paul Apap Bologna.
The latter is a leading shareholder in the controversial Electrogas power station project, which he began pitching to politicians ahead of the 2013 election, and is currently under scrutiny by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee trying to establish the truth behind the deal.