Robert Abela’s Catch-22

Robert Abela has threatened to take “all possible legal action” against Steward Healthcare if the company “fails to observe its obligations” under what is clearly a corrupt deal.

Of course, we don’t know precisely what those obligations are. The government refused to table the original contracts and agreements in parliament — contracts they signed in the country’s name, not the governing Labour Party’s.

But we do know it included a bizarre and entirely unjustifiable €100 million guarantee which must be paid to Stewart if the contract is rescinded.

You don’t need to be a titan of commerce to realize no one in their right mind inserts a massive penalty clause in a contract to be invoked if they themselves break that contract.

The prime minister has backed himself into a corner and is flailing around in the smoke screen released by his own government.

None of the positions Abela has taken are plausible.

On the one hand, he said he’ll fight Steward if it tries to walk away from a deal that Steward itself admitted was mired in fraud and corruption from the beginning.

We know they admitted this because Steward filed unredacted copies of all VGH agreements and side letters in court as evidence in an appeal against a judgement involving one of the original VGH investors.

Abela also said, “If Steward chooses to leave the concession agreement, the government will do its utmost to avoid paying that amount” — meaning the notorious €100 million guarantee.

But if the deal is corrupt, as Steward is arguing, then surely the entire thing can be legally rescinded, including the penalty.

The National Audit Office would back this up. After investigating VGH, the Auditor General concluded there was evidence of collusion between the government and Vitals, and said the company should have been excluded from bidding for the project.

‘Great!’ you might think. ‘That gets Malta off a very expensive hook.’

Not quite…

You see, Abela can’t admit the deal with VGH was corrupt.

That would mean admitting Konrad Mizzi was in on it from the beginning — and by extension, so was Joseph Muscat. The Minister Within The Office of the Prime Minister was acting under his personal supervision.

Mizzi confirmed this in his testimony to the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. In a session dominated by “I won’t reply”, the Panama Papers minister made a statement in which he said, “I always got the go-ahead from the prime minister, I consulted with him and information was given to cabinet.”

“For every major decision, the prime minister was informed and he gave the go-ahead,” Mizzi said. “I sought his direction.”

Abela can’t admit the VGH deal was corrupt — and save his country from a crippling €100 million penalty in one graceful swoop — without throwing Joseph Muscat under the bus.

And so the prime minister finds himself in the bizarre position of disowning all knowledge of major deals made while he served in cabinet, and as Muscat’s personal advisor.

“The first time I got to know about that agreement was after it was signed,” Abela said. Asked what advice he gave to Muscat on the Vitals deal, he said, “I wasn’t involved in any of that.”

Someone’s clearly lying here — and by ‘someone’ I mean ‘all of them’.

Robert Abela has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his predecessor, referring to incidents that happened before he took over as prime minister.

News flash: it’s the same government, and I don’t just mean figuratively.

Abela became prime minister after winning an internal party leadership contest. He ran on a platform of ‘continuity’, and he’s governing on the mandate Joseph Muscat won in 2017.

The failings of that government are the failings of Abela’s government — and this includes the corrupt hospitals deal.

But the prime minister can’t wash his hands of it without washing his hands of Joseph Muscat, something he can’t possibly do before the next election — not unless he wants to alienate Labour Party voters who are convinced Muscat worked an economic miracle that made them richer.

And so Abela and his minions find themselves in the uncomfortable position of trying to pretend it was Konrad Mizzi all along.

The prime minister “wasn’t involved in any of that”.

The Finance Minister responsible for major capital investments and defending the public purse “got to know afterwards” — although he did concede that “perhaps it was mentioned verbally” in cabinet.

And Health Minister Chris Fearne — the guy you’d think is responsible for public hospitals — claims the Steward takeover happened behind his back.

As for Joseph Muscat, he’d barely left his chair at Castille when he showed up at his old office with Armin Ernst to argue with his successor in favour of giving more money to Steward. The €60,000 he received from a Swiss company intimately connected to Steward was just a coincidence. The former prime minister says he earned it by doing unrelated ‘consulting work’ as a self-described economist.

Steward wants more money in order to stick to the deal, and I don’t see how Abela can avoid giving it to them — not without bringing down the entire house of cards.

Caught between throwing more taxpayer money into an illegitimate deal or tearing it up, Abela will be forced to choose between the good of the country and the impunity of his own tainted colleagues.

His only hope is to keep stalling until the next election.



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8 months ago

Robert Abela was the Consultant of Joseph Muscat. Enough said.

8 months ago

And stall he will because the PAC farce in which Mizzi is meant to answer before Parliament is going nowhere.

Just like every inquiry goes nowhere and why Malta is ranked bottom of the E.U’s member states at its ability to speedily deliver justice in the case of money laundering financial crimes.

Coincidences? Hardly.

8 months ago

I enjoy watching corrupt pollys flounder.
Especially when the ‘stalling’ definition turns from temporal to aeronautical.

Last edited 8 months ago by viv
Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
8 months ago

It is crystal clear to all but those who refuse to see.

Carmelo Borg
8 months ago

Bobby il kontinwazjoni li tiftahar bija se titfek f abbis. B Dan il HMIEG kollu tibqa tghid KONTIWAZZJONI. AHNA AHNA JEW MAHNIEX BOB. Jaqaw il papa tieghek George ma itikx PARIRI JEW RASEK IBSA DAQS IZ ZONQOR. Ara ma tiehux it titlu li ha Dak ta qablek tafx. L ewropa qed tosserva kollox I mhux twahlu f Metsola.

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