The Malta Police Force has failed to answer questions on why it has not opened an independent investigation into the “fraudulent” Vitals hospitals deal after the Court of Appeal found “collusion” between government and private entities to the detriment of the public.
When The Shift contacted police, Commissioner Angelo Gafa declined to explain why the police had not initiated an independent investigation into the deal and did not oblige when asked for “a yes or no answer” on whether an investigation had even been opened, directing The Shift’s questions to their communications department.
When contacted, the department claimed its investigations have, for the past years, been linked to those done by the inquiring magistrate.
They said “All criminal allegations related to this case have always been brought to the attention of the Inquiring Magistrate, and the Malta Police has always sought the Court’s direction on way forward,” declining to give further details.
On Tuesday afternoon, opposition leader Bernard Grech claimed Gafa had confirmed to him that the police had not opened an investigation into the deal.
Grech said, “There is no independent investigation occurring outside the magisterial inquiry, and [Gafa] said his hands shall remain tied until the inquiry comes to a close.”
On Monday, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the shady 2015 multi-billion-euro deal, through which three public hospitals were transferred to Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Health Care, was to the detriment of Maltese taxpayers.
The Court said the evidence “confirms the suspicion that the intention behind this concession was not a better medical service but an instrument through which money could flow from the country’s pockets towards those of VGH and Steward.”
The Court of Appeal decision confirmed an earlier decision from last February, which had found the Vitals-Steward concession, the largest deal a Maltese government has ever stuck with the private sector, was fraudulent throughout.
The original court decision had laid the blame for the “fraudulent” deal on Steward while the Court of Appeal expanded judgment. It said there was “collusion between Steward and senior government officials or its agencies.”
The case to have the contracts and all ancillary documents rescinded – including Steward’s €100 million escape clause – had been opened in 2018 by then-opposition leader Adrian Delia in his personal capacity as an MP against disgraced then-prime minister Joseph Muscat.
In a statement in front of the police general headquarters in Floriana, opposition leader Bernard Grech, joined by Delia and justice shadow minister Karol Aquilina, called for an independent police investigation into the deal.
Grech said the lack of independent police investigation is a “confirmation of the continued failure of our country’s institutions.” He said Gafa had confirmed that the police were not conducting an independent investigation apart from the magisterial inquiry.
In a separate statement on Facebook, Aquilina condemned Prime Minister Robert Abela’s statements in parliament on Monday. Abela cast doubt on the integrity of the judiciary, claiming the opposition and civil society influence them.
Abela said the opposition and civil society “breaks down, humiliates and intimidates [the judiciary] for them to decide as [the opposition and civil society] see fit,” referencing Aquilina’s brother, Repubblika President Robert Aquilina, in the process.
Karol Aquilina said, “Abela’s behaviour is not acceptable in a democratic society – it is irresponsible, dangerous, and should be universally condemned.” He characterised the comments as an attempt to “discredit the judiciary” and “defend Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.”