Malta company linked to hospitals deal and payments to Muscat to be struck off

Hospitals concessionaire's CEO claims he is "proud" of achievements to international media.

 

Accutor Ltd, the Maltese offshoot of a Swiss company linked to suspicious payments received by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, is being struck off the business register according to a notice by the Registrar of Companies on Thursday.

The process for its dissolution started last month after its director, Pakistani lawyer Wasay Bhatti failed to file the required documentation, indicating its abandonment.

Bhatti had engaged Muscat as his ‘consultant’, with some €60,000 in payments rolling in from his companies immediately following Muscat’s forced resignation in 2019.

Bhatti’s companies had been wired millions in payments by Steward Healthcare on the same day it had announced its subsidiary’s take over of the government concession to revamp three hospitals from Vitals Global Healthcare.

The Vitals/Steward concession was later labelled “fraudulent” by the courts.

Apart from Muscat, VGH Director Ram Tumuluri and VGH Investor Shaukat Ali also received payments from Bhatti’s companies. Muscat’s consultancy is now being probed in a magisterial inquiry.

Meanwhile, Armin Ernst, Steward International’s CEO, recently emailed US newspaper The Boston Globe to say he was “proud” of the company’s achievements in Malta.

Ernst’s comments were included in a report on the company’s international expansion, of which Malta served as “the first stop”. The group’s US-based companies are currently risking bankruptcy, with millions in unpaid bills.

The report detailed the firm’s work in Malta, purportedly meant to serve as a model for the company’s further expansions.

Drawing on the findings of a joint investigation between The Shift, The Times of Malta, and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), The Globe reported how Steward took over from VGH but similarly failed to deliver on promises.

The 2015 concession was handed over in 2017 for €1 under an alleged threat of assassination by disgraced former ministers Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

Malta served as “the first stop in its aggressive bid to expand internationally.” The firm now has offices in Madrid, Riyadh, Dubai, and Bogota, according to the report.

Steward told The Globe that the promises to revamp St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo General Hospitals were unachievable with Vitals’ financial model.

They claimed the government reneged on a commitment to renegotiate the contract and that the initial plan for the Barts Medical School to finance the hospitals’ reconstruction was “unrealisable.”

The school was one of the only promises kept in the Vitals/Steward concession, although enrolment remains low.

The report noted how Steward and Vitals received some €400 million as part of the concession.

The company left almost €40 million in unpaid taxes and hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills from service providers.

Following a watershed court ruling in February 2023, which found the Maltese government’s deal with Steward/Vitals was “fraudulent”, the company packed its bags and left Malta last year.

The court of appeals confirmed the ruling, which called the deal an “instrument through which money could flow from the country’s pockets towards those of VGH and Steward.”

The issues in Malta mirror those of Steward’s US-based companies in Massachusetts where debts of hundreds of millions of dollars could lead to the healthcare system imploding.

A magisterial inquiry into the hospitals deal, which has seen disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s links investigated, is awaiting conclusion.

                           

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2 Comments
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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

Armin Ernst declaring pride in his Company’s achievement in Malta?

That looks to me like giving an absolutely perverse meaning to the noun ‘pride’.

Osservatore
Osservatore
1 month ago

A company that has never filed accounts, never submitted tax returns and that has been involved in suspicious payments is being strict off by the MBR. Yes, the institutions are working, but only in favor of criminals,

Last edited 1 month ago by Osservatore

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